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“ ‘Dozen the turret stair she flew quickly.” 

[facing PAGE 294- 

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, J THE, | 
W H I T E W O R M 




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164 Aldersgate St., London, E.C. 

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Copyright in Great Britain and her Dependencies 
by Bram Stoker, 19x1. 

Copyright in the United States of America 
by Bram Stoker, 1911. 

All Rights Reserved. 


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3. diana’s grove 21 


5. home-coming 36 

6. THE WHITE WORM ...... 44 


8. OOLANGA 64 




12. THE KITE 99 

13. mesmer’s CHEST ...... 105 

14. THE CHEST OPENED ...... 114 

15. oolanga’s hallucinations .... 121 



18. ON THE TRACK 144 


20. THE MYSTERY OF u THE GROVE” . . . 160 

21. EXIT OOLANGA ....... 168 

22. SELF-JUSTIFICATION ...... 177 



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viii The Lair of the White Worm 


24 . METABOLISM 191 

25 . THE DECREE 197 


27 . GREEN LIGHT 212 


29 . IN THE enemy’s HOUSE 225 

30 . A RACE FOR LIFE 232 

31 . BACK TO DOOM 239 


33 . war k l’outrance 251 

34 . apprehension 258 


36 . FACE TO FACE 270 




40 . WRECKAGE 319 



“ ‘ He kept his eyes fixed on Lilia ’ ” 60 

“ Lady Arabella was dancing in a fantastic sort of way ” . 86 

“ The kite was shaped like a great hawk ” . . . 100 

“OolaDga’s black face . . . peering out from a clump of 

evergreens ” 148 

“ They could follow the tall white shaft ” . . . 222 

“ Down the turret stair she flew quickly ” . . 294 

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When Adam Salton arrived at the Great Eastern 
Hotel lie found awaiting him a letter in the hand- 
writing of his grand-uncle, Richard Salton, which 
he knew so well from the many kind letters which 
he had received from him in West Australia. The 
first of them had been written less than a year 
before, in which the old gentleman, who had 
in it claimed kinship, stated that he had been 
unable to write earlier because until then he did 
not know even of his existence, and it had taken 
him some time to find out his address. ^ The last, 
sent after him, had only just arrived, and conveyed 
a most cordial invitation to stop with him at Lesser 
Hill for as long a time as he could spare. “ Indeed,” 
his grand-uncle went on, “ I am in hopes that you 
will make your permanent home here. You see, 
my dear boy, that you and I are all that remain of 
our race, and it is but fitting that you should succeed 

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2 The Lair of the White Worm 

me when the time comes, which cannot be long 
now. I am getting close on eighty years of age, and 
though we have been a long-lived race, the span of 
life cannot be prolonged beyond reasonable bounds. 
I am prepared to like you and to make your home 
with me as happy a one as I can achieve. So do 
come at once on receipt of this and find the welcome 
I am waiting to give you. I send, in case such may 
make matters easy for you, a banker’s draft for 
£500. Come soon, so that we may both of us have 
such happy days as are still possible to us. For 
me this is all-important, as the sands of my life are 
fast running out ; but for you I trust there are 
many happy years to come. If you are able to 
give me the pleasure of seeing you, send me as soon 
as you can a letter telling me to expect you. Then 
when you arrive at Plymouth or Southampton (or 
whatever port you are bound for), send me a tele- 
gram, and I shall come to meet you at the earliest 
hour possible.” 

On Monday, Adam Salton’s letter arrived by the 
morning post, saying that he hoped to travel by the 
boat which carried it, and that he would therefore 
be ready to meet his grand-uncle so soon after the 
arrival of the letter in Mercia as he should be able 
to reach London. “ I shall wait your arrival, sir, 
on the ship. By this means we may avoid any 
cross purposes.” 

Mr Salton took it for granted that, no matter how 
fast he might travel, his guest would be awaiting 

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Adam Salton Arrives 


him ; so he gave instructions to have ready a 
carriage at seven the next morning to start for 
Stafford, where he would catch the 11.40 for 
Euston, arriving at 2.10. Thence, driving to 
Waterloo, he could catch the 3 p.m., due at 
Southampton at 5.38. He would that night stay 
with his grand-nephew, either on the ship, which 
would be a new experience for him, or, if his guest 
should prefer it, at a hotel. In either case they 
would start in the early morning for home. He 
had given instructions to his bailiff to send the 
postillion carriage on to Southampton to be ready 
for their journey home, and to arrange for relays 
of his own horses to be sent on at once. He in- 
tended that his grand-nephew, who had been all his 
life in Australia, should see something of central 
England on the drive. He had plenty of young 
horses of his own breeding and breaking, and could 
depend on a journey memorable to the young man. 
The luggage would be sent on by rail the same day 
to Stafford, where one of his own carts would meet 
it. Mr Salton, during the journey to Southampton, 
often wondered if his grand-nephew was as much 
excited as he was at the idea of meeting so near a 
relation for the first time ; and it was with an effort 
that he controlled himself. The endless railway 
lines and switches round the Southampton Docks 
fired his anxiety afresh. 

As the train drew up on the dockside, he was 
getting his hand traps together, when the carriage 

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4 The Lair of the White Worm 

door was wrenched open and a young man jumped 
in, saying as he came : 

“ How are you, uncle ? I wanted to meet you as 
soon as I could, but everything is so strange to me 
that I didn’t quite know what to do. However, 
I took chance that the railway people knew some- 
thing of their own business — and here I am. I am 
glad to see you, sir. I have been dreaming of the 
happiness for thousands of miles ; and now I find 
that the reality beats all the dreaming ! ” As he 
spoke the old man and the young one were heartily 
wringing each other’s hands. He went on : “I 
think I knew you the moment I set eyes on you. 
I am glad that that dream was only enhanced by 
the reality ! ” 

The meeting so auspiciously begun proceeded 
well. Adam, seeing that the old man was interested 
in the novelty of the ship, suggested timidly that 
he should stay the night on board, and that he 
would himself be ready to start at any hour and 
go anywhere that the other suggested. This 
affectionate willingness to fall in with his own 
plans quite won the old man’s heart. He warmly 
accepted the invitation, and at once they became 
not only on terms of affectionate relationship, but 
almost as old friends. The heart of the old man, 
which had been empty for so long, found a new 
delight. So, too, the young man found on landing 
in the old country a welcome and a surrounding 
in full harmony with all his dreams of such matters 

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Adam Salton Arrives 


throughout all his wanderings and solitude, and the 
promise of a fresh and adventurous life. It was 
not long before the old man accepted him to full 
relationship by calling him by his Christian name. 
The other accepted the proffer with such heartiness 
that he was soon regarded as the future companion, 
almost the child, of his old age. After a long talk 
on affairs of interest, they retired to the cabin, 
which the elder was to share. Bichard Salton, 
putting his hands affectionately on the boy’s 
shoulders — though Adam was in his twenty-seventh 
year, he was a boy, and always would be, to his 
grand-uncle, — said warmly : 

“ I am so glad to find you as you are, my dear 
boy — just such a young man as I had always hoped 
for as a son in the days when I still had such hopes. 
However, dear boy, that is all past. But thank 
God there is a new life to begin for both of us. To 
you must be the larger part — but there is still time 
for some of it to be shared in common. I have 
waited till we should hftve seen each other to 
enter upon the subject ; for I thought it better 
not to tie up your young life to my old one till 
we should ^have both sufficient personal knowledge 
to justify such a venture. Now I can (so far as 
I am concerned) enter into it freely, since from 
the moment my eyes rested on you I saw my son 
— as he shall be, God willing — if he chooses such a 
course himself.” 

“ Indeed I do, sir — with all my heart ! ” 

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6 The Lair of the White Worm 

“ Thank you, Adam, for that/’ The old man’s 
eyes filled and his voice trembled. Then, after a 
long silence between them, he went on : “ When 
I heard you were coming I made my will. It was 
well that your interests should be protected from 
that moment on. Here is the deed — keep it, Adam. 
All I have shall belong to you ; and if love and 
good wishes or the memory of them can make life 
sweeter, yours shall be a happy one. And now, 
my dear boy, let us turn in. We start early in 
the morning and have a long drive before us. 
I hope you don’t mind carriage driving ? I was 
going to have sent down the old travelling car- 
riage in which my grandfather, your great-grand- 
uncle, went to Court when William IV. was king. 
It is all right — they built well in those days — and it 
has been kept in perfect order. But I think I have 
done better : I have sent the carriage in which I 
travel myself. The horses are of my own breeding, 
and relays of them shall take us all the way. I hope 
you like horses ? They have long been one of my 
greatest interests in life.” 

“ I love them, sir, and I am happy to say I have 
many of my own. My father gave me a horse farm 
for myself when I was sixteen. I devoted myself 
to it, and it has gone on. Before I came away, my 
steward gave me a memorandum that we have in 
my own places more than a thousand, nearly all 

“ I am glad, my boy. Another link between us.” 

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Adam Salton Arrives 7 

“ Just fancy what a delight it will be, sir, to see 
so much of middle England — and with you ! ” 

“ Thank you again, my boy. I shall tell you all 
about your future home and its surroundings as we 
go. We shall travel in old-fashioned state, I tell you. 
My grandfather always drove four-in-hand ; and so 
shall we.” 

" Oh, thanks, sir, thanks. May I take the ribbons 
sometimes ? ” 

“ Whenever you choose, Adam. The team is 
your own. Every horse we use to-day is to be 
your own.” 

“ You are too generous, unole ! ” 

“ Not at all. Only an old man’s selfish pleasure. 
It is not every day that an heir to the old home 
comes back. And — oh, by the way . . . No, we 
had better turn in now — I shall tell you the rest in 
the morning.” 

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Me S alton had all his life been an early riser, and 
necessarily an early waker. But early as he woke 
on the next morning, and although there was an 
excuse for not prolonging sleep in the constant 
whirr and rattle of the “ donkey ” engine winches of 
the great ship, when he waked he met the eyes of 
Adam fixed on him from his berth. His grand- 
nephew had given him the sofa, occupying the lower 
berth himself. The old man, despite his great 
strength and normal activity, was somewhat tired 
by his long journey of the day before and the pro- 
longed and exciting interview which followed it. 
So he was glad to lie still and rest his body, whilst 
his mind was actively exercised in taking in all he 
could of his strange surroundings. Adam, too, after 
the pastoral habit to which he had been bred, woke 
with the dawn, if not before it, and was ready to 
enter on the experiences of the new day whenever 
it might suit his elder companion. It was little 
wonder, then, that, so soon as each realised the 
other’s readiness, they simultaneously jumped up 
and began to dress. The steward had by previous 


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The Caswalls of Castra Regis 9 

instructions early breakfast prepared, and it was 
not long before they went down the gangway on 
shore in search of the carriage. 

They found Mr Salton’s bailiff waiting on the 
dock, and he brought them at once to where the 
carriage was waiting in the street. Bichard Salton 
pointed out with pride to his young companion the 
suitability of the trap to every need of travel. It 
was a sort of double gig, excellently made, and with 
every appliance adapted for both speed and safety. 
To it were harnessed four fine, useful horses, with a 
postillion to each pair. 

“ See,” said the old man proudly, “ how it has 
all the luxuries of useful travel — silence and isola- 
tion as well as speed. There is nothing to obstruct 
the view of those travelling and no one to overhear 
what they may say. I have used that trap for a 
quarter of a century, and I never saw one more 
suitable for travel. You shall test it shortly. We 
are going to drive through the heart of England ; 
and as we go I shall tell you what I was speaking of 
last night. Our route is to be by Salisbury, Bath, 
Bristol, Cheltenham, Worcester, Stafford; and so 

After remaining silent a few minutes, what time 
he seemed all eyes, for he perpetually ranged the 
whole circle of the horizon, Adam said : 

“ Has our journey to-day, sir, any special relation 
to what you said last night that you wanted to tell 
me ? ” 

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io The Lair of the White Worm 

44 Not directly ; but indirectly, everything.” 

44 Won’t you tell me now — I see we cannot be 
overheard — and if anything strikes you as we go 
along, just run it in. I shall understand.” 

So old Salton spoke : 

44 To begin at the beginning, Adam. That lecture 
of yours on 4 The Romans in Britain 9 set me think- 
ing — in addition to telling me where you were. I 
wrote to you at once and asked you to come home, 
for it struck me that if you were fond of historical 
research — as seemed a fact — this was exactly the 
place for you, in addition to its being the place of 
your own forbears. If you could learn so much of 
the British Romans so far away in West Australia, 
where there cannot be even a tradition of them, 
what might you not make of the same amount of 
study on the very spot. Where we are going is in 
the real heart of the old kingdom of Mercia, where 
there are traces of all the various nationalities which 
made up the conglomerate which became Britain.” 
After a slight pause Adam said : 

44 1 rather gathered that you had some more 
definite — more personal reason for my hurrying. 
After all, history can keep — except in the making ! ” 
44 Quite right, my boy. I had a reason such as 
you very wisely guessed at. I was anxious for you 
to be here when a rather important phase of our 
local history occurred.” 

44 What is that, if I may ask, sir ? ” 

44 Certainly. The great owner of all this part of 

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The Caswalls of Castra Regis n 

the county — of several of the counties — is on his 
way home, and there will be a great home-coming, 
which you may care to see. The fact is, that for 
more than a century the various owners in the 
succession here, with the exception of a short time, 
lived abroad/’ 

“ How is that, sir, if I may again ask ? ” 

“ By all means. That is why I wished you to be 
here — so that you might learn. We have a good 
stretch without incident before us till we get in 
sight of Salisbury, so I had better begin now : 

“ Our great house and estate in this part of the 
world is Castra Regis, the family seat of the Caswall 
family. The last owner who lived here was 
Edgar Caswall, great-grand-uncle of the man who is 
coming here — and he was the only man who stayed 
even the short time. His grandfather, also named 
Edgar — they keep the tradition of the family 
Christian name — quarrelled with his family and 
went to live abroad, not keeping up any relations, 
good or bad, with his relatives. His son was bom 
and lived and died abroad. His son, the latest 
inheritor, was also bom and lived abroad till he was 
over thirty, — his present age. This was the second 
line of absentees. The great-great-grandfather of 
the present Edgar also cut himself off from his 
family and went abroad, from which sojourn he 
never returned. The consequence has been that 
the great estate of Castra Regis has had no know- 
ledge of its owner for six generations — covering 

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12 The Lair of the White Worm 

more than a hundred years. It has been well 
administered, however, and no tenant or other 
connected with it has had anything to complain of. 
All the same, there has been much natural anxiety 
to see the new owner, and we are all excited about 
the event of his coming. Even I am, though I own 
my own estate, which, though adjacent, is quite 
apart from Castra Regis. — Here we are now in new 
ground for you. That is the spire of Salisbury 
Cathedral, and when we leave that we shall be getting 
close to the old Roman county and you will naturally 
want your eyes. So we shall shortly have to keep 
our minds on old Mercia. However, you need not 
be disappointed. My old friend, Sir Nathaniel de 
Salis, who, like myself, is a freeholder near Castra 
Regis, though not on it — his estate, Doom Tower, is 
over the border of Derbyshire, on the Peak — is 
coming to stay with me for all the festivities to 
welcome Edgar Caswall. He is just the sort of 
man you will like. He is devoted to history, and 
is President of the Mercian Archeological Society. 
He knows more of our own part of the country, 
with its history and its people, than anyone else. 
I expect he will have arrived before us, and we three 
can have a long chat after dinner. He is also our 
local geologist and natural historian. So you and 
he will have many interests in common. Amongst 
other things he has a special knowledge of the Peak 
and its caverns, and knows all the old legends of the 
days when prehistoric times were vital.” 

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The Cas walls of Castra Regis 13 

From this on till they came to Stafford, Adam’s 
eyes were in constant employment on matters of 
the road ; and it was not till Salton had declared 
that they had now entered on the last stage of their 
journey that he referred back to Sir Nathaniel’s 

As the dusk was closing down they drove on to 
Lesser Hill, Mr Salton’s house. It was now too 
dark to see detail of their surrounding. Adam 
could just see that it was on the top of a hill, not 
quite so high as that which was covered by the 
Castle, on whose tower flew the flag, and which was 
all ablaze with moving lights, manifestly used in 
the preparations for the festivities on the morrow. 
So Adam deferred his curiosity till daylight. His 
grand-uncle was met at the door by a fine old man, 
who said as he greeted him warmly : 

“ I came over early as you wished me to. I 
suppose this is your grand-nephew — I am glad to 
meet you, Mr Adam Salton. I am Nathaniel de 
Salis, and your uncle is the oldest of my friends.” 

Adam, from the moment of their eyes meeting, 
felt as if they were already old friends. The meeting 
was a new note of welcome to those that had already 
sounded in his ears. 

The cordiality with which Sir Nathaniel and Adam 
met made the imparting of the former’s information 
easy both to speak and to hear. Sir Nathaniel was 
quite a clever old man of the world, who had 
travelled much and within a certain area studied 

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14 The Lair of the White Worm 

deeply. He was a brilliant conversationalist, as 
was to be expected from a successful diplomatist, 
even under unstimulating conditions. But be had 
been touched and to a certain extent fired by the 
younger man’s evident admiration and willingness 
to learn from him. Accordingly the conversation, 
which began on the most friendly basis, soon warmed 
to an interest above proof as the old man spoke of 
it next day to Richard Salton. He knew already 
that his old friend wanted his grand-nephew to 
learn all he could of the subject in hand, and so 
had during his journey from the Peak put his 
thoughts in sequence for narration and explanation. 
Accordingly, Adam had only to listen and he must 
learn much that he wanted to know. When dinner 
was over and the servants had withdrawn, leaving 
the three men at their wine, Sir Nathaniel began : 

“ I gather from your uncle — by the way, I suppose 
we had better speak of you as uncle and nephew, 
instead of going into exact relationship ? In fact, 
your uncle is so old and dear a friend, that, with 
your permission, I shall drop formality with you 
altogether and speak of you and to you as Adam, 
as though you were his son.” 

“ I would wish, sir,” answered the young man, 

“ nothing better in the world ! ” 

The answer warmed the hearts of both the old . 
men who heard. All the men felt touched, but, 
with the usual avoidance of Englishmen of 
emotional subjects personal to themselves, they 

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The Caswalls of Castra Regis 15 

instinctively moved the previous question. Sir 
Nathaniel took the lead : 

“ I understand, Adam, that your uncle has posted 
you regarding the relationships of the Caswall 
family ? ” 

“ Partly, sir ; but I understood that I was to 
hear minuter details from you — if you would be so 

“ I shall be delighted to tell you anything so far 
as my knowledge goes. Well, we have to remember, 
in connection with the events of to-morrow, that 
not less than ten generations of that family are 
involved. And I really believe that for a true 
understanding of the family ramifications you 
cannot begin better than having the list as a basis. 
Everything which we may consider as we go along 
will then take its natural place without extra 
trouble. The present branch of affairs begins 
only about something more than a hundred and 
fifty years ago. Later we may have to go further 
back, for the history of the Caswall family is coeval 
with that of England — we need not trouble ourselves 
with dates ; the facts will be more easily grasped 
in a general way. 

“The first Caswall in our immediate record is 
Edgar, who was head of the family and owner of 
the estate, who came into his kingdom just about 
the time that George III. did. He had one son of 
about twenty-four. There was a violent quarrel 
between the two. No one of this generation has 


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1 6 The Lair of the White Worm 

any idea of the cause of it ; but, considering the 
family characteristics, we may take it for granted 
that though it was deep and violent, it was on the 
surface trivial. 

“ The result of the quarrel was that the son left 
the house without approaching a reconciliation or 
without even telling his father where he was going. 
He never came back to the house again. A few 
years after, he died without having in the mean- 
time exchanged a word or a letter with his father. 
He married abroad and left one son, who seems 
to have been brought up in ignorance of all be- 
longing to him. The gulf between them appears 
to have been unbridgable ; for in time this son 
married and in turn had a son, but neither joy 
nor sorrow brought the sundered together. Under 
such conditions no rapprochement was to be looked 
for, and an utter indifference, founded at best on 
ignorance, took the place of family affection — even 
on community of interests. It was only due to the 
watchfulness of the lawyers that the birth and 
death of a new heir was ever made known. In 
time a second son appeared, but without any effect 
of friendly advance. 

“ At last there arose a dim hope of some cessation 
of hostility, for though none of the separated made 
mention of the fact — knowledge of which was 
again due to the lawyers — a son was bom to this 
youngest member of the voluntary exiles — the 
great-grandson of the Edgar whose son had left 

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The Caswalls of Castra Regis 17 

him. After this the family interest merely rested 
on heirship of the estate — any outside interest 
being submerged in the fact of a daughter being 
bom to the grandson of the first Edgar. Some 
twenty years afterwards, the interest flickered up 
when it was made known — again through the lawyers 
— that the last two bom had been married, thus 
shutting off any possibility of disputed heirship. 
As no other child had been bom to any of the 
newer generations in the intervening twenty years, 
all hopes of heritage were now centred in the son 
of this last couple — the heir whose home-coming 
we are to celebrate to-morrow. The elder genera- 
tions had all died away, and there were no colla- 
terals, so there was no possibility of the heirship 
being disputed. 

“ Now, it will be well for you to bear in mind the 
prevailing characteristics of this race. These were 
well preserved and unchanging ; one and all they 
are the same : cold, selfish, dominant, reckless of 
consequences in pursuit of their own will. It was 
not that they did not keep faith, though that was 
a matter which gave them little concern, but that 
they took care to think beforehand of what they 
should do in order to gain their ends. If they 
should make a mistake someone else should bear 
the burthen of it. This was so perpetually recurrent 
that it seemed to be a part of a fixed policy. It was 
no wonder indeed that whatever changes took place 
they were always ensured in their own possessions. 


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1 8 The Lair of the White Worm 

They were absolutely of cold, hard nature. Not 
one of them — so far as we have any knowledge — 
was ever known to be touched by the softer senti- 
ments, to swerve from his purpose, or hold his hand 
in obedience to the dictates of his heart. Part of 
this was due to their dominant, masterful nature. 
The aquiline features which marked them seemed 
to justify every personal harshness. The pictures 
and effigies of them all show their adherence to the 
early Roman type. Their eyes were full ; their hair, 
of raven blackness, grew thick and close and curly. 
Their figures were massive and typical of strength. 

“ The thick black hair growing low down on the 
neck told of vast physical strength and endurance. 
But the most remarkable characteristic is the eyes. 
Black, piercing, almost unendurable, they seem 
to contain in themselves a remarkable will power 
which there is no gainsaying. It is a power that 
is partly racial and partly individual : a power 
impregnated with some mysterious quality, partly 
hypnotic, partly mesmeric, which seems to take 
away from eyes that meet them all power of 
resistance, nay, deeper, all power of wishing to resist. 
With eyes like those set in that aquiline, all-com- 
manding face one would need to be strong indeed 
to even think of resisting the inflexible will that lay 
beyond. Even the habit and the exercise of power 
which they implied was a danger to anyone who 
was conscious of a weakness on his own part. 

“ You may think, Adam, that all this is imagina- 

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The Caswalls of Castra Regis 19 

tion on my part, especially as I have never seen any 
belonging to the generation I have spoken of. So 
it is. But imagination based on deep study. I 
have made use of all I know or can surmise logically 
regarding this strange race. And with this data, 
however received, I have thought out logical 
results, correcting, amending, intensifying accepted 
conclusions, till at times I see as though various 
members of the race had always been under my 
observation — that they are even under it still. 
With such strange compelling qualities, is it any 
wonder that there is abroad an idea that in the 
race there is some demoniac possession, which tends 
to a more definite belief that certain individuals 
have in the past sold themselves to the Devil ? The 
Devil, I may say in this connection, is seldom 
mentioned in propria persona , but generally under 
some accepted guise, * The Powers of Evil/ ‘ The 
Enemy of Mankind/ ‘ The Prince of the Air/ etc. 
I don’t know what it is in other places ; but along 
this eastern coast it is not considered polite to 
speak the truth plainly, baldly, in such matters, 
but to cover up the idea with a veil of obscurity 
in which safety or security may be hidden. 

“ But I think we had better go to bed now. We 
have a lot to go through to-morrow, and I want 
you to have your brain clear, and all your suscepti- 
bilities fresh. Moreover, I want you to come with 
me in an early walk in which we may notice, whilst 
the matter is fresh in our minds, the peculiar dis- 

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20 The Lair of the White Worm 

position of this place — not merely your grandfather’s 
estate, but the lie of the country around it. There 
are many things on which we may seek — and 
perhaps find — enlightenment. The more we know 
at the start, the more things which may come into 
our view will develop themselves.” 

So they all went off to bed. 

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Curiosity took Adam Salton out of bed in the early 
morning, but when he had dressed and gone down- 
stairs, he found that, early as he was, Sir Nathaniel 
de Salis was ahead of him. The old gentleman was 
quite prepared for a long walk if necessary, and they 
started at once. Sir Nathaniel, without speaking, 
led the way a little to the east down the hill. When 
they had descended and risen again, they found 
themselves on the eastern brink of a steep hill. 
It was of lesser height than that on which the Castle 
was seated ; but it was so placed that it commanded 
the various hills that crowned the ridge. All along 
the ridge the rock cropped out, bare and bleak, but 
broken in rough formed natural castellation. The 
form of the ridge was a segment of a circle, with the 
higher points inland to the west. In the centre 
rose the Castle on the highest point of all. Between 
the various rocky excrescences were groups of trees 
of various sizes and heights, amongst some of which 
were what in the early morning light looked like ruins . 
These — whatever they were — were of massive grey 
stone, probably limestone rudely cut — if indeed 


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22 The Lair of the White Worm 

they were not shaped naturally. The largest of 
these clumps was of oak trees of great age. They 
crossed the least of the hills, that which lay to the 
eastward. The fall of the ground was steep all 
along the ridge, so steep that here and there both 
trees and rocks and buildings seemed to overhang 
the level plain far below. Through this level ran 
many streams, and there was a number of blue 
pools, where was evidently fairly deep water. 

Sir Nathaniel stopped and looked all around him, 
as though to lose nothing of the effect. The sun 
had climbed the eastern sky and was making all 
details clear. Sir Nathaniel pointed all round him 
with a sweeping gesture, as though calling Adam’s 
attention to the wideness of the view. He did so 
so rapidly as to suggest that he wished the other to 
take, in the first survey, rather the coup d’ceil than 
any detail. Having done so, he covered the ground 
in a similar way, but more slowly, as though inviting 
attention to detail. Adam was a willing and atten- 
tive pupil, and followed his motions exactly, missing 
— or trying to miss — nothing. When they had made 
the rough survey round the whole sweep of the 
eastern horizon, Sir Nathaniel spoke : 

“ I have brought you here, Adam, because it 
seems to me that this is the spot on which to begin 
our investigations. You have now in front of you 
almost the whole of the ancient kingdom of Mercia. 
In fact, we see, theoretically if not practically, the 
whole of it except that furthest part which is covered 

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Diana’s Grove 


by the Welsh Marches and those parts which are 
hidden from where we stand by the high ground of 
the immediate west. We can see — again theoreti- 
cally if not practically — the whole of the eastern 
bound of the kingdom which ran south from the 
Humber to the Wash. I want you to bear in mind 
the trend of the ground, for some time, sooner or 
later, we shall do well to have it in our mind’s eye 
when we are considering the ancient traditions 
and even superstitions and are trying to find the 
rationale of them. I think we had better not try to 
differentiate between these, but let them naturally 
take their places as we go on. Each legend, each 
superstition which we receive will help in the 
understanding and possible elucidation of the others. 
And as all such have a local basis, we can come 
closer to the truth — or the probability — by knowing 
the local conditions as we go along. It will help us 
to bring to our aid even such geological truth as we 
may have between us. For instance, the building 
materials used in various ages can afford their own 
lessons to understanding eyes. The very heights 
and shapes and materials of these hills, nay, even 
of the wide plain that lies between us and the sea, 
have in themselves the materials of enlightening 

“ For instance, sir ? ” said Adam, venturing a 

“ Well, for instance, look at those hills which 
surround the main one where the site for the Castle 

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24 The Lair of the White Worm 

was wisely chosen — on the highest ground. Take 
the others. There is something ostensible in each 
of them, and in all probability something unseen 
and unproved, but to be imagined, also.” 

“ For instance ? ” continued Adam. 

“ Let us take them seriatim . That to the east, 
where the trees are, lower down. That was once 
the location of a Roman temple, possibly founded 
on a pre-existing Druidical one. Its name implies 
the former, and the grove of ancient oaks suggests 
the latter.” 

“ Please explain.” 

“ The old name translated means ‘ Diana’s 
Grove.’ Then the next one higher than it, but just 
beyond it, is called * Mercy . 9 In all probability 
a corruption or perhaps a familiarisation of the 
word Mercia with a Roman pun included. We 
learn from early manuscripts that the place was 
called Vilula Misericordice. It was originally a 
nunnery founded by Queen Bertha, but done away 
with by King Penda, the reactionary to Paganism 
after St Augustine. Then comes your uncle’s 
place — Lesser Hill. Though it is so close to the 
Castle, it is not connected with it. It is a freehold, 
and, so far as we know, of equal age. It has always 
belonged to your family.” 

“ Then there only remains the Castle ! ” 

" That is all ; but its history contains the 
histories of all the others — in fact, the whole history 
of early England.” 

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Diana’s Grove 25 

Sir Nathaniel, seeing the expectant look on 
Adam’s face, went on : 

“ The history of the Castle has no beginning so 
far as we know. The furthest records or surmises 
or inferences simply accept it as existing. Some of 
these — guesses let us call them — seem to show that 
there was some sort of structure there when the 
Romans came, therefore it must have been a place 
of importance in Druid times — if indeed that was 
the beginning. Naturally the Romans accepted 
it, as they did everything of the kind that was, or 
might be, useful. The change is shown or inferred 
in the name Castra. It was the highest protected 
ground, and so naturally became the most important 
of their camps. A study of the map will show you 
that it must have been a most important strate- 
getic centre. It both protected the advances 
already made to the north, and it helped to dominate 
the sea coast to the east. It sheltered the western 
marches, beyond which lay savage Wales — and 
danger. It provided a means of getting to the 
Severn, round which lay the great Roman roads 
then coming into existence, and made possible the 
great waterway to the heart of England — through 
the Severn and its tributaries. And it brought the 
east and the west together by the swiftest and 
easiest ways known to those times. And, finally, 
it provided means of descent on London and all the 
expanse of country watered by the Thames. 

“ With such a centre, already known and organ- 

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26 The Lair of the White Worm 

ised, we can easily see that each fresh wave of 
invasion — the Angles, the Saxons, the Danes, and 
the Normans — found it a desirable possession and 
so ensured its upholding. In the earlier centuries 
it was merely a vantage ground. But when the 
victorious Romans brought with them the heavy 
solid fortifications impregnable to the weapons of 
the time, its commanding position alone ensured 
its adequate building and equipment. Then it 
was that the fortified camp of the Csesars developed 
into the castle of the king. As we are as yet 
entirely ignorant of even the names of the first 
kings of Mercia, no historian has been able to even 
guess what king made it his ultimate defence ; and 
I suppose we shall never know now. In process 
of time, as the arts of war developed, it increased in 
size and strength, and although recorded details are 
lacking, the history is written in not merely the stone 
of its building, but is inferred in the changes of 
structure. Then the general sweeping changes 
which followed the Norman Conquest wiped out 
all lesser records than its own. To-day we must 
accept it as one of the earliest castles of the Con- 
quest, probably not later than the time of Henry I. 
Roman and Norman were both wise in their reten- 
tion of places of approved strength or utility. So 
it was that these surrounding heights, already 
established and to a certain extent proved, were 
retained. Indeed, such characteristics as already 
pertained to them were preserved and to-day afford 

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Diana’s Grove 27 

to us lessons regarding things which have them- 
selves long since passed away. 

“ So much for the fortified heights ; but the hollows 
too have their own story. But how the time passes ! 
We must hurry home, or else your uncle will wonder 
what has become of us.” As he spoke he was 
hurrying with long steps towards Lesser Hill, and 
Adam was furtively running to be able to keep up 
with him. When they had arrived close to the 
house, Sir Nathaniel said : 

“ I am sorry to cut short our interesting con- 
versation. But it will be only postponed. I want 
to tell you, and I am sure you want to know, all that 
I know of this place. And, if I am not mistaken, 
our next instalment of history will be even more 
interesting than the first.” 

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Breakfast had just begun when Mr Salton said : 
“ Now, there is no hurry, but so soon as you are 
both ready we shall start. I want to take you first 
to see a remarkable relic of Mercia, and then we 
shall go down to Liverpool through what is called 
‘ The Great Yale of Cheshire/ You may be dis- 
appointed, but take care not to prepare your mind ” 
— this to Adam — “for anything stupendous or 
heroic. You would not think the place you are 
going through was a vale at all, unless you were told 
it beforehand, and had confidence in the veracity 
of the teller. We should get to the Landing Stage 
in time to meet the West African. We ought to 
meet Mr Caswall as he comes ashore. We want 
to do him honour — and, besides, it will be more 
pleasant to have the introductions over before we 
go to his fete at the Castle/’ 

The carriage was ready, the same as was used the 
previous day. The postillions, too, were the same, 
but there were two pairs of different horses — magni- 
ficent animals, and keen for work. Breakfast was 
soon over, and they shortly took their places. The 


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The Lady Arabella March 29 

postillions had their orders, and they were soon on 
their way at an exhilarating pace. 

Presently, in obedience to Mr Salton’s signal, 
the carriage drew up near Stone, opposite a great 
heap of stones by the wayside. “ Here/’ he said, 
“ is something that you of all men should not pass 
by unnoticed. That heap of stones brings us at 
once to the dawn of the Anglian kingdom. It 
was begun more than a thousand years ago, in 
the latter part of the seventh century, in memory 
of a murder. Wulfere, King of Mercia, nephew of 
Penda, here murdered his two sons for embracing 
Christianity. As was the custom of the time, each 
passer-by added a stone to the memorial heap. 
Penda represented heathen reaction after St Augus- 
tine’s mission. Sir Nathaniel can tell you as much as 
you want about this, and put you, if you wish, on 
the track of such accurate knowledge as there is.” 

Whilst they were looking at the heap of stones, 
they noticed that another carriage had drawn up 
beside them, and the passenger — there was only one 
— was regarding them curiously. The carriage was 
an old heavy travelling one, with arms blazoned on 
it gorgeously. The coronet was an earl’s, and there 
were many quarterings. Seeing then the occupant 
was a lady, the men took off their hats. The 
occupant spoke : 

“ How do you do, Sir Nathaniel ? How do you 
do, Mr Salton ? I hope none of you has met with 
any accident. Look at me ! ” 

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30 The Lair of the White Worm 

As she spoke she pointed where one of the heavy 
springs was broken across, the broken metal show- 
ing bright. Adam spoke up at once : 

“ Oh, that will be soon put right.” 

“ Soon ? I shall have to wait till we get to 
Wolverhampton. There is no one near who can 
mend a break like that.” 

1 can. 

“ You ! ” She looked incredulously at the dapper 
young gentleman who spoke. “ You — why, it’s a 
workman’s job.” 

“ All right, I am a workman — though that is not 
the only sort of work I do. Let me explain. I am 
an Australian, and, as we have to move about fast, 
we are all trained to farriery and such mechanics 
as come into travel — and I am quite at your service.” 
She said sweetly : “ I hardly know how to thank 
you for your kindness, of which I gladly avail myself. 
I don’t know what else I can do. My father is Lord 
Lieutenant of the County, and he asked me to take 
his carriage — he is abroad himself — and meet Mr 
Caswall of Castra Regis, who arrives home from 
Africa to-day. It is a notable home-coming; his 
predecessor in the event made his entry more than 
a century ago, and all the countryside want to 
do him honour.” She looked at the old men and 
quickly made up her mind as to the identity of the 
stranger. “ You must be Mr Salton — Mr Adam 
Salton of Lesser Hill. I am Lady Arabella March 
of Diana’s Grove.” As she spoke she turned 

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The Lady Arabella March 31 

slightly to Mr Salton, who took the hint and made 
a formal introduction. 

So soon as this was done, Adam took some tools 
from his uncle’s carriage, and at once began work on 
the broken spring. He was an expert workman, 
and the breach was soon made good. Adam was 
gathering the tools which he had been using, and 
which, after the manner of all workmen, had been 
scattered about, when he noticed that several 
black snakes had crawled out from the heap of 
stones and were gathering round him. This 
naturally occupied his mind, and he was not think- 
ing of anything else when he noticed Lady Arabella, 
who had opened the door of the carriage, slip from 
it with a quick gliding motion. She was already 
among the snakes when he called out to warn her. 
But there seemed to be no need of warning. The 
snakes had turned and were wriggling back to the 
mound as quickly as they could. He laughed to 
himself behind his teeth as he whispered, “No need 
to fear there. They seem much more afraid of her 
than she of them.” All the same he began to beat 
on the ground with a stick which was lying close 
to him, with the instinct of one used to such vermin. 
In an instant he was alone beside the mound with 
Lady Arabella, who appeared quite unconcerned 
at the incident. Then he took a long look at her. 
She was certainly good to look at in herself, and 
her dress alone was sufficient to attract attention. 
She was clad in some kind of soft white stuff, which 

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32 The Lair of the White Worm 

clung close to her form, showing to the full every 
movement of her sinuous figure. She was tall and 
exceedingly thin. Her eyes appeared to be weak, 
for she wore large spectacles which seemed to be of 
green glass. Certainly in the centre they had the 
effect of making her naturally piercing eyes of a 
vivid green. She wore a close-fitting cap of some 
fine fur of dazzling white. Coiled round her white 
throat was a large necklace of emeralds, whose 
profusion of colour quite outshone the green of her 
spectacles — even when the sun shone on them. Her 
voice was very peculiar, very low and sweet, and so 
soft that the dominant note was of sibilation. 
Her hands, too, were peculiar — long, flexible, white, 
with a strange movement as of waving gently to 
and fro. 

She appeared quite at ease, and, after thanking 
Adam, said that if any of his uncle’s party were 
going to Liverpool she would be most happy to 
join forces. She added cordially : 

“Whilst you are staying here, Mr Salton, you 
must look on the grounds of Diana’s Grove as your 
own, so that you may come and go just as you do 
in Lesser Hill. There are some fine views and not 
a few natural curiosities which are sure to interest 
you. There are some views in the twilight which 
are, they say, unique. And if you are a student of 
natural history — specially of an earlier kind, when 
the world was younger — you shall not have your 
labour of discovery in vain.” 

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The Lady Arabella March 33 

The heartiness with which she spoke and warmth 
of her words — not of her manner, which was 
abnormally cold and distant — repelled him, made 
him suspicious. He felt as if he was naturally 
standing on guard. In the meantime both his 
uncle and Sir Nathaniel had thanked her for the 
invitation — of which, however, they said they were 
unable to avail themselves. Adam had a sort of 
suspicion that though she answered regretfully, she 
was in reality relieved. When he had got into the 
carriage with the two old men and they had driven 
off, he was not surprised when Sir Nathaniel said : 
“ I could not but feel that she was glad to be rid 
of us. She can play her game better alone ! ” 

“ What is her game, sir ? ” asked Adam unthink- 
ingly, but the old man answered without comment : 
“ All the county knows it, my boy. Caswall is 
a very rich man. Her husband was rich when she 
married him — or seemed to be. When he committed 
suicide it was found that he had nothing at all. 
Her father has a great position and a great estate 
— on paper. But the latter is mortgaged up to the 
hilt, and is held in male tail only, so that her only 
hope is in a rich marriage. I suppose I need not 
draw any conclusion. You can do that as well as 
I can.” 

Adam remained silent nearly all the time they 
were travelling through the alleged Yale of 
Cheshire. He thought much during that journey 
and came to several conclusions, though his lips 


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34 The Lair of the White Worm 

were unmoved. One of these conclusions was that 
he would be very careful about paying any attention 
to Lady Arabella. He was himself a rich man, how 
rich not even his uncle had the least idea, and would 
have been surprised had he known. The other 
resolution was that he would be very careful how 
he went moonlighting in Diana’s Grove, especially 
if he were unattended. 

At Liverpool they went aboard the West African 9 
which had just come to the landing-stage. There 
his uncle introduced himself to Mr Caswall, and 
followed this up by introducing Sir Nathaniel and 
then Adam. The new-comer received them all 
very graciously, and said what a pleasure it was on 
coming home after so long an absence of his family 
from their old seat, and hoped they would see much 
of each other in the future. Adam was much 
pleased at the warmth of the reception ; but he 
could not avoid a feeling of repugnance at the man’s 
face. He was trying hard to overcome this when 
a diversion was caused by the arrival of Lady 
Arabella. The diversion was welcome to all ; the 
two Saltons and Sir Nathaniel were shocked at 
Caswall’s face — so hard, so ruthless, so selfish, so 
dominant. “ God help any,” was the common 
thought, “ who is under the domination of such a 
one ! ” 

But presently his African servant approached 
him, and at once their thoughts changed to a larger 
toleration. For by comparison with this man his 

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The Lady Arabella March 35 

face seemed to have a certain nobility hitherto 
lacking. Caswall looked indeed a savage — but a 
cultured savage. In him were traces of the soften- 
ing civilisation of ages — of some of the higher 
instincts and education of man, no matter how 
rudimentary these might be. But the face of 
Oolanga, as his master at once called him, was pure 
pristine, unreformed, unsoftened savage, with inher- 
ent in it all the hideous possibilities of a lost, devil- 
ridden child of the forest and the swamp — the lowest 
and most loathsome of all created things which were 
in some form ostensibly human. 

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As Lady Arabella and Oolanga arrived almost 
simultaneously, Adam began to surmise what effect 
their appearance would have on each other. They 
were exactly opposite in every quality of appearance, 
and, so far as he could judge, of mental or moral 
gifts or traits. The girl of the Caucasian type, 
beautiful, Saxon blonde, with a complexion of milk 
and roses, high-bred, clever, serene of nature. The 
other negroid of the lowest type ; hideously ugly, 
with the animal instincts developed as in the lowest 
brutes ; cruel, wanting in all the mental and moral 
faculties — in fact, so brutal as to be hardly human. 
If Adam expected her to show any repugnance he 
was disappointed. If anything, her pride heightened 
into disdain. She seemed as if she would not — 
could not — condescend to exhibit any concern or 
interest in such a creature. On the other hand, his 
bearing was such as in itself to justify her pride. 
He treated her not merely as a slave treats his 
master, but as a worshipper would treat a deity. 
He knelt before her with his hands outstretched 
and his forehead in the dust. So long as she re- 


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Home-coming 37 

mained he did not move ; it was only when she 
went over to Caswall and spoke that he relaxed his 
attitude of devotion and simply stood by respect- 
fully. His dress, which was a grotesque mixture, 
more than ever seemed absurd. He had on evening 
dress of an ill cut, an abnormally efflorescent white 
shirt with exaggerated cuffs and collar, all holding 
mock jewels of various colours. In his nose was 
a silver ring, and in his ears large ornaments com- 
posed of trophies of teeth. He wore a tall hat, 
which had once been of a shape of some kind, with 
a band of gold lace. Altogether he looked like a 
horrible distortion of a gentleman’s servant. All 
those around grinned or openly jeered. One of the 
stewards, who was carrying some of Mr Caswall’s 
lighter luggage and making himself important, after 
the manner of stewards to debarking passengers, 
was attentive even to him. 

Adam spoke to his own bailiff, Davenport, who 
was standing by, having arrived with the bailiff of 
Lesser Hill, who had followed Mr Salton in his own 
pony trap. As he spoke he pointed to the attentive 
ship’s steward, and presently the two men were 

After a little time Mr Salton said to Adam : 

“ I think we ought to be moving. I have some 
things to do in Liverpool, an$ I am sure that both 
Mr Caswall and Lady Arabella would like to get 
under weigh for Castra Regis.” To which said 
Adam : 

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38 The Lair of the White Worm 

“ I too, sir, would like to do something. I want 
to find out where Ross, the animal merchant, lives — 
you know, the local Jamrach. I want to take a 
small animal home with me, if you don’t mind. 
He is only a little thing, and will be no trouble.” 

“ Of course not, my boy. Whatever you like. 
What kind of animal is it that you want ? ” 

“ A mongoose.” 

“ A mongoose ! What on earth do you want it 
for ? ” 

" To kill snakes.” 

“ Good ! ” The old man remembered the mound 
at Stone. No explanation was needed. 

Ross, the animal merchant, had had dealings with 
Adam chiefly in the way of mongooses. When he 
heard what was wanted he asked : 

“ Do you want something special, or will an 
ordinary mongoose do ? ” 

“ Well, of course I want a good one. But I see 
no need for anything special. It is for ordinary 

“ I can let you have a choice of ordinary ones. I 
only asked because I have in stock a very special 
one which I got lately from Nepaul. He has a 
record of his own. He killed a king cobra that had 
been seen in the Rajah’s garden. But I don’t 
suppose we have any snakes of the kind in this cold 
climate — I daresay an ordinary one will do.” 

The bargain was effected. When Adam was coming 
away with the box under his arm, he said to Ross : 

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Home-coming 39 

“ I don’t know anything of the snakes here. I 
wouldn’t have believed there are any at all, only I 
saw some to-day. I shall try this mongoose, and 
if he is any good I shall be glad to keep him. But 
don’t part with the other yet. I shall send you word 
if I want him.” 

When Adam got back to the carriage, carefully 
carrying the box with the mongoose, Sir Nathaniel 
said : 

“ Hullo ! what have you got there ? ” 

“ A mongoose.” 

“ What for ? ” 

“ To kill snakes ! ” 

Sir Nathaniel laughed. “ Well, even as yet, it 
seems you have come to the right place.” 

“ How do you mean ? Why ‘ as yet ’ ? ” 

“ Remember the snakes yesterday. But that is 
only a beginning.” 

“ A beginning ! How so ? ” 

“ That, my boy, belongs to the second section 
of our inquiry. It will have a direct bearing on it.” 
“ You mean about the legends ? ” 

“ We shall begin on them.” 

“ And then ? ” 

“ I heard Lady Arabella’s invitation to you to 
come to Diana’s Grove in the twilight.” 

“ Well, what on earth has that got to do with it ? ” 
“ Nothing directly that I know of. But we shall 

Adam waited, and the old man went on : 

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40 The Lair of the White Worm 

“ Have you by any chance heard the other name 
which was given long ago to that place.” 

“ No, sir.” 

“ It was called Look here, this subject 

wants a lot of talking over and listening. Suppose 
we wait till after dinner to-night, when we shall be 
alone and shall have lots of time before us.” 

“ All right, sir. Let us wait ! ” Adam was 
filled with curiosity, but he thought it better not 
to hurry matters. All would come in good time. 

His attention was then claimed by the events of 
the day. Shortly the Lesser Hill party set out for 
Castra Regis, and for the time he thought no more 
of Diana’s Grove or of what mysteries it had con- 
tained — or might still contain. 

The guests were crowding in and special places 
were marked for important guests. Some little 
time was occupied in finding their seats. Adam, 
seeing so many persons of varied degree, looked 
round for Lady Arabella, but could not locate her. 
It was only when he saw the old-fashioned travelling 
carriage approach and heard the sound of cheering 
which went with it, that he realised that Edgar 
Caswall had arrived. Then, on looking more closely, 
he saw that Lady Arabella, dressed as he had seen 
her last, was seated beside him. When the carriage 
drew up at the great flight of steps, the host 
jumped down and gave her his hand and led her up 
to the great dais table, and placed her in the seat 
to the right of that kept for himself. 

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Home-coming 41 

It was evident to all that she was the chief guest 
at the festivities. It was not long before the seats 
on the dais were filled and the tenants and guests 
of lesser importance had occupied all the coigns of 
vantage not reserved. The order of the day had 
been carefully arranged by the committee. There 
were some speeches, happily neither many nor long ; 
and then festivities were suspended till the time for 
feasting had arrived. In the interval Caswall 
walked among his guests, speaking to all in a friendly 
manner and expressing a general welcome. The 
other guests came down from the dais and followed 
his example, so there was unceremonious meeting 
and greeting between gentle and simple. Adam 
Salton naturally followed with his eyes all that went 
on within their scope, taking note of all who seemed 
to afford any interest. He was young and a man 
and a stranger from a far distance ; so on all these 
accounts he naturally took stock rather of the 
women than of the men, and of these, those who 
were young and attractive. There were lots of 
pretty girls among the crowd who had seemingly 
no dislike to be looked at ; and Adam, who was a 
handsome young man and well set up, got his full 
share of admiring glances. These did not concern 
him much, and he remained unmoved until there 
came along a group of three, by their dress and 
bearing, of the farmer class. One was a sturdy old 
man; the other two were good-looking girls, one 
of a little over twenty, the other not quite grown — 

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42 The Lair of the White Worm 

seventeen at most. So soon as Adam’s eyes met 
those of the younger girl, who stood nearest to him, 
some sort of electricity flashed — that divine spark 
which begins by recognition and ends in obedience. 
Men call it “ Love.” 

Both the elders of the party noticed how much 
Adam was taken by the pretty girl, and both spoke 
of her to him in a way which made his heart warm 
to them. 

“ Did you notice that party that passed ? The 
old man is Michael Watford, one of the tenants of 
Mr Caswall. He occupies Mercy Farm, which Sir 
Nathaniel tells me he pointed out to you to-day. 
The girls are his grand-daughters, the elder, Lilia, 
being the only child of his eldest son, who died when 
she was less than a year old. His wife died on the 
same day — in fact at the same time. She is a good 
girl — as good as she is pretty. The other is her 
first cousin, the daughter of Watford’s second son. 
He went for a soldier when he was just over twenty, 
and was drafted abroad. He was not a good corre- 
spondent, though he was a good enough son. A few 
letters came, and then his father heard from the 
colonel of his regiment that he had been killed by 
dacoits in Burmah. He heard from the same 
source that his boy had been married to a Burmese, 
and that there was a daughter only a year old. 
Watford had the child brought home, and she grew 
up beside Lilia. The only thing that they heard 
of her birth was that her name was Mimi. The two 

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children adored each other, and do to this day. 
Strange how different they are ! Lilia all fair, like 
the old Saxon stock she is sprung from ; Mimi 
almost as dark as the darkest of her mother’s race. 
Lilia is as gentle as a dove, but Mimi’s black eyes 
can glow whenever she is upset. The only thing 
that upsets her is when anything happens to injure 
or threaten or annoy Lilia. Then her eyes glow 
as do the eyes of a bird when her young are 

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Mb Salton introduced Adam to Mr Watford and 
his grand-daughters, and they all moved on together. 
Of course people, neighbours, in the position of the 
Watfords knew all about Adam Salton, his relation- 
ship, circumstances, and prospects. So it would 
have been strange indeed if both girls did not see 
or dream of possibilities of the future. In agricul- 
tural England, eligible men of any class were rare. 
This particular man was specially eligible, for he 
did not belong to a class in which barriers of caste 
were strong. So when it began to be noticed that 
he walked beside Mimi Watford and seemed to 
desire her society, all their friends seemed to give 
the promising affair a helping hand. When the 
gongs sounded for the banquet, he went with her 
into the tent where her father had seats. Mr 
Salton and Sir Nathaniel noticed that the young 
man did not come to claim his appointed place at 
the dais table ; but they understood and made no 
remark, or indeed did not seem to notice his absence. 
Lady Arabella sat as before at Edgar CaswalTs 
right hand. She was certainly a very beautiful 


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The White Worm 


woman, and to all it seemed fitting from her rank 
and personal qualities that she should be the chosen 
partner of the heir on his first appearance. Of 
course nothing was said openly by those of her 
own class who were present; but words were not 
necessary when so much could be expressed by 
nods and smiles. It seemed to be an accepted 
thing that at last there was to be a mistress of 
Castra Regis, and that she was present amongst 
them. There were not lacking some who, whilst 
admitting all her charm and beauty, placed her 
in only the second rank of beauty, Lilia Watford 
being marked as first. There was sufficient diver- 
gence of type as well as of individual beauty to 
allow of fair commenting ; Lady Arabella repre- 
sented the aristocratic type, and Lilia that of the 

When the dusk began to thicken, Mr Salton and 
Sir Nathaniel walked home — the trap had been 
sent away early in the day, leaving Adam to follow 
in his own time. He came in earlier than was 
expected, and seemed upset about something. 
Neither of the elders made any comment. They 
all lit cigarettes, and, as dinner-time was close at 
hand, went to their rooms to get ready. Adam 
had evidently been thinking in the interval. He 
joined the others in the drawing-room, looking 
ruffled and impatient — a condition of things seen 
for the first time. The others, with the patience — 
or the experience— of age trusted to time to unfold 

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46 The Lair of the White Worm 

and explain things. They had not long to wait. 
After sitting down and standing up several times, 
Adam suddenly burst out : 

“ That fellow seems to think he owns the earth. 
Can’t he let people alone ! He seems to think that 
he has only to throw his handkerchief to any 
woman, and be her master.” 

This outburst was in itself enlightening. Only 
thwarted affection in some guise could produce this 
feeling in an amiable young man. Sir Nathaniel, 
as an old diplomatist, had a way of understanding, 
as if by foreknowledge, the true inwardness of 
things, and asked suddenly, but in a matter-of-fact, 
indifferent voice : 

“ Was he after Lilia ? ” 

“ Yes. And he didn’t lose any time either. 
Almost as soon as they met he began to butter her 
up, and to tell her how beautiful she is. Why, 
before he left her side he had asked himself to tea 
to-morrow at Mercy Farm. Stupid ass ! He might 
see that the girl isn’t his sort ! I never saw any- 
thing like it. It was just like a hawk and a 

As he spoke, Sir Nathaniel turned and looked 
at Mr Salton — a keen look which implied a full 
understanding. Then the latter said quietly : 

“ Tell us all about it, Adam. There are still 
ten minutes before dinner, and we shall all have 
better appetites when we have come to some con- 
clusion on this matter.” 

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Adam spoke with an unwonted diffidence : 

“ There is nothing to tell, sir ; that is the worst 
of it. I am bound to say that there was not a word 
said that a human being could object to. He was 
very civil, and all that was proper — just what a 
landlord might be to a tenant’s daughter. . . . And 
yet — and yet — well, I don’t know how it was, but 
it made my blood simply boil.” 

“ How did the hawk and the pigeon come in ? ” 
Sir Nathaniel’s voice was soft and soothing, noth- 
ing of contradiction or overdone curiosity in it — a 
tone eminently suited to win confidence. 

“ I can hardly explain it. I can only say that 
he looked like a hawk and she like a dove — and, now 
that I think of it, that is what they each did look 
like ; and do look like in their normal condition.” 

“ That is so ! ” came the soft voice of Sir 

Adam went on : 

“ Perhaps that early Roman look of his set me off. 
But I wanted to protect her ; she seemed in danger.” 
“ She seems in danger, in a way, from all you 
young men. I couldn’t help noticing the way that 
even you looked, as if you wished to absorb her.” 
Here the kindly, temperate voice of Mr Salton 
came in : 

“ I hope both you young men will keep your heads 
cool. You know, Adam, it won’t do to have any 
quarrel between you, especially so soon after his 
home-coming and your arrival here. We must 

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48 The Lair of the White Worm 

think of the feelings and happiness of our neighbours ; 
mustn’t we ? ” 

“ I hope so, sir. And I assure you that, whatever 
may happen, or even threaten, I shall obey your 
wishes in this as in all things.” 

“ Silence ! ” whispered Sir Nathaniel, who heard 
the servants in the passage bringing dinner. 

After dinner, over the walnuts and the wine, 
Sir Nathaniel returned to the subject of the local 
legends, saying : “ It will perhaps be a less 
dangerous topic for us to discuss than more recent 

“ All right, sir,” said Adam heartily. “ I think 
you may depend on me now with regard to any 
topic. I can even discuss with Mr Caswall. Indeed, 
I may meet him to-morrow. He is going, as I said, 
to call at Mercy Farm at three o’clock — but I have 
an appointment at two.” 

“ I notice,” said Mr Salton, “ that you do not 
lose any time.” 

“ No, sir. Perhaps that is the reason why the 
part I came from has for its motto — ‘ Advance, 
Australia ! ’ ” 

“ All right, my boy. Advance is good — so 
long as you take care where you are going and how. 
There is a line in one of Shakespeare’s plays, ‘ They 
stumble that run fast.’ It is worth bearing in 

“ All right again, sir ; but I don’t think you need 
fear me now I have had my kick.” 

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The two old men once more looked at each other 
steadily. It was as much as to say, “ Good ! The 
boy has had his lesson. He will be all right ! ” 
Then, lest the mood of his listener should change 
with delay, Sir Nathaniel began at once : 

“ I don’t propose to tell you all the legends of 
Mercia, or even to make a selection of them. It 
will be better, I think, for our purpose if we consider 
a few facts — recorded or unrecorded — about this 
neighbourhood. I shall try to remember, and you, 
Adam, shall ask me questions as we go along. We 
all want stimulation to memory. When we have 
nothing amongst us to remember it will be time 
enough to invent. I propose to go on where we 
left off yesterday morning, about the few places 
round here that we spoke of. I think we might 
begin with Diana’s Grove. It has roots in the 
different epochs of our history, and each has, be sure, 
its special crop of legend. The Druid and the 
Roman are too far off for matters of detail ; but 
it seems to me the Saxon and the Angles are near 
enough to yield material for legendary lore. If 
there were anything well remembered of an earlier 
period, we may take it that it had some beginning 
in what was accepted as fact. We find that this 
particular place had another name or sobriquet 
besides Diana’s Grove. This was manifestly of 
Roman origin, or of Grecian accepted as Roman. 
The former is more pregnant of adventure and 
romance than the Roman name. In Mercian 


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50 The Lair of the White Worm 

tongue it was ‘ The Lair of the White Worm.’ 
This needs a word of explanation at the beginning. 

“ In the dawn of the language, the word * worm 9 
had a somewhat different meaning from that in use 
to-day. It was an adaptation of the Anglo-Saxon 
4 wyrm, 5 meaning primarily a dragon or snake ; or 
from the Gothic 4 waurms,’ a serpent ; or the Ice- 
landic 4 ormur/ or the German 4 wurm/ We gather 
that it conveyed originally an idea of size and power, 
not as now in the diminutive of both these meanings. 
Here legendary history helps us. We have the 
well-known legend of the 4 Worm Well 9 of Lamb- 
ton Castle, and that of the 4 Laidly Worm of Spind- 
leston Heugh ’ near Bamborough. In both these 
legends the 4 worm ’ was a monster of vast size 
and power — a veritable dragon or serpent, such as 
legend attributes to vast fens or quags where there 
was illimitable room for expansion. A glance at 
a geological map will show that whatever truth 
there may have been of the actuality of such 
monsters in the early geologic periods, at least 
there was plenty of possibility. In the eastern 
section of England there were originally vast 
plains where the naturally plentiful supply of water 
could gather. There the streams were deep and 
slow, and there were holes of abysmal depth, where 
any kind and size of antediluvian monster could 
find a habitat. In places, which now we can see 
from our windows, were mud-holes a hundred or 
more feet deep. Who can tell us when the age of 

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The White Worm 51 

the monsters which flourished in slime came to an 
end ? If such a time there was indeed, its limits 
could only apply to the vast number of such dangers. 
There must have been times and places and condi- 
tions which made for greater longevity, greater 
size, greater strength than was usual. Such over- 
lappings may have come down even to our earlier 
centuries. Nay, are there not now creatures of a 
vastness of bulk regarded by the generality of men 
as impossible ? Even in our own day there are 
here and there seen the traces of animals, if not the 
animals themselves, of stupendous size — veritable 
survivals from earlier ages, preserved by some 
special qualities in their habitats. I remember 
meeting a distinguished man in India, who had the 
reputation of being a great shikaree, who told me 
that the greatest temptation he had ever had in 
his life was to shoot a giant snake which he had 
literally come across in the Terai of Upper India. 
He was on a tiger-shooting expedition, and as his 
elephant was crossing a nullah it squealed. He 
looked down from his howdah and saw that the 
elephant had stepped across the body of a snake 
which was dragging itself through the jungle. * So 
far as I could see/ he said, ‘ it must have been 
eighty or one hundred feet in length. Fully forty 
or fifty feet was on each side of the track, and 
though the weight which it dragged had thinned 
it to its least, it was as thick round as a man’s 
body. I suppose you know that when you are 

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52 The Lair of the White Worm 

after tiger, it is a point of honour not to shoot at 
anything else, as life may depend on it. I could 
easily and with safety have spined this monster, 
but I felt that I must not — and so with regret I 
had to let it go.’ 

“ Just imagine such a monster anywhere in this 
country, and at once we could get a sort of idea of 
the ‘ worms/ which possibly did frequent the great 
morasses which spread round the mouths of any 
of the great European rivers/’ 

Adam had been thinking ; at last he spoke : 

“ I haven’t the least doubt, sir, that there may 
have been such monsters as you have spoken of still 
existing at a much later period than is generally 
accepted. Also, that if there were such things, 
that this was the very place for them. I have 
tried to think over the matter since you pointed 
out the configuration of the ground. But if you 
will not be offended by my expressing — not indeed 
a doubt, but a difficulty — it seems to me that there 
is a hiatus somewhere.” 

“ Where ? What kind ? Tell me frankly, where 
is your difficulty. You know I am always glad of 
an honest opinion in any difficulty.” 

“ Well, sir, all that you say may be, probably is, 
true. But are there not mechanical difficulties ? ” 
“ As how ? ” 

“ Well, our antique monster must have been 
mighty heavy, and the distances he had to travel 
were long and the ways difficult. From where we 

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are now sitting down to the level of the mud-holes 
even the top of them is a distance of several hundred 
feet — I am leaving out of consideration altogether 
for the present lateral distance. Is it possible that 
there was a way by which a monster such as you 
have spoken of could travel up and down, and yet 
no chance recorder have ever seen him ? Of course 
we have the legends ; but is not some more exact 
evidence necessary in a scientific investigation ? ” 
“ My dear Adam, all you say is perfectly right, 
and, were we starting on just such an investigation, 
we could not do better than follow your reasoning. 
But, my dear boy, you must remember that all 
this took place thousands of years ago. You must 
remember, too, that all records of the kind that 
would help us are lacking. Also, that the places to 
be considered were absolutely desert so far as human 
habitation or population are considered. In the 
vast desolation of such a place as complied with the 
necessary conditions there must have been such pro- 
fusion of natural growth as would bar the progress of 
men formed as we are. The lair of such a monster 
as we have in mind would not have been disturbed 
for hundreds — or thousands — of years. Moreover, 
these creatures must have occupied places quite 
inaccessible to man. A snake who could make 
himself comfortable in a quagmire a hundred feet 
deep would be protected even on the outskirts by 
such stupendous morasses as now no longer exist, 
or which, if they exist anywhere at all, can be on 

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54 The Lair of the White Worm 

very few places on the earth’s surface. Far be it 
from me to say, or even to think for a moment, 
that in more elemental times such things could not 
have been. The condition of things we speak of 
belongs to the geologic age — the great birth and 
growth of the world, when natural forces ran riot, 
when the struggle for existence was so savage that 
no vitality which was not founded in a gigantic form 
could have even a possibility of survival. That 
such a time was we have evidences in geology, but 
there only. We can never expect proofs such as 
this age demands. We can only imagine or surmise 
such things — or such conditions and such forces as 
overcame them.” 

“ Come, let us get to bed,” said Mr Salton. “ Like 
you both, I enjoy the conversation. But one thing 
is certain : we cannot settle it before breakfast.” 

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At breakfast-time next morning Sir Nathaniel and 
Mr Salton were seated when Adam came hurriedly 
into the room. 

“ Any news ?” asked his uncle mechanically. 

“ Four.” 

“ Four what ? ” asked Sir Nathaniel. 

“ Snakes,” said Adam, helping himself to a grilled 

“ Four snakes. How ? I don’t understand.” 

“ Mongoose,” said Adam, and then added explana- 
torily : “ I was out with the mongoose just after 

“ Four snakes in one morning ! Why, I didn’t 
know there were so many on the Brow ” — the local 
name for the western cliff. “ I hope that wasn’t the 
consequence of our talk of last night ? ” 

“ It was, sir. But not directly.” 

“ But, God bless my soul, you didn’t expect to 
get a snake like the Lambton worm, did you ? 
Why, a mongoose to tackle a monster like that — if 
there were one — would have to be bigger than a 


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56 The Lair of the White Worm 

“ These were ordinary snakes, only about as big 
as a walking-stick.” 

“ Well, it's well to be rid of them, big or little. 
That is a good mongoose, I suppose ; he’ll clear out 
all such vermin round here,” said Mr Salton. 

Adam went quietly on with his breakfast. Killing 
a few snakes in a morning was no new experience to 
him. He left the room the moment breakfast was 
finished and went to the study that his uncle had 
arranged for him. Both Sir Nathaniel and Mr Salton 
took it that he wanted to be by himself as so to avoid 
any questioning or talk of the visit that he was to 
make that afternoon. He stayed by himself either 
in the house or walking, till about half an hour before 
dinner-time. Then he came quietly into the smok- 
ing-room, where Mr Salton and Sir Nathaniel were 
sitting together ready dressed. He too was dressed, 
and the old diplomatist noticed that his hand was, 
if possible, more steady than usual. He had 
actually shaved himself when making his toilet, but 
there was no sign of a cut or even of a quiver of the 
hand. Sir Nathaniel smiled to himself quietly as 
he said under his voice : 

“ He is all right. That is a sign there is no 
mistaking — for a man in love. He certainly was 
in love yesterday ; and one way or another, if he can 
get rid of, or overcome, troubles of the heart like 
that, I think we needn’t have any special appre- 
hension about him.” So he resumed the magazine 
which he had been reading. 

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Hawk and Pigeon 

After a few minutes of silence all round, Adam 
gave further evidence of his aplomb. He suddenly 
said, looking at the others : 

“ I suppose there is no use waiting. We had 
better get it over at once.” 

His uncle, thinking to make things easier to him, 
said : 

“ Get what over 1 ” 

There was a sign of shyness about him at this. 
He stammered a little at first, but his voice became 
more even as he went on : 

“ My visit to Mercy Farm.” 

Mr Salton waited eagerly. The old diplomatist 
simply smiled easily. 

“ I suppose you both know that I was much 
interested yesterday in the Watfords ? ” There 
was no denial or fending off the question. Both the 
old men smiled acquiescence. Adam went on : 
“I meant you to see it — both of you. You, 
unole, because you are my uncle and the nearest 
thing to me on earth — of my own kin, and, more- 
over, you couldn’t have been more kind to me or 
made me more welcome if you had been my own 
father.” Mr Salton said nothing. He simply held 
out his hand, and the other took it and held it 
for a few seconds. “ And you, sir, because you 
have shown me something of the same affection 
which in my wildest dreams of home I had no 
right to expect.” He stopped for an instant, much 

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58 The Lair of the White Worm 

Sir Nathaniel said softly, laying his hand on the 
boy’s shoulder : 

“ You are right, my boy ; quite right. That is the 
proper way to look at it. And I may tell you that we 
old men, who have no children of our own, feel our 
hearts growing warm when we hearwords like those.” 
Then Adam hurried on, speaking with a rush, as 
if he wanted to come to the crucial point : 

“ Mr Watford had not come in, but Lilia and 
Mimi were at home, and they made me feel very 
welcome. They have all a great regard for my uncle. 
I am glad of that any way, for I like them all — much. 
We were having tea when Mr Caswall came to 
the door, attended by the Christy Minstrel.” 

“ The Christy Minstrel ! ” repeated Sir Nathaniel. 
His voice sounded simply as an acknowledgment, 
not as a comment of any kind. 

“ Lilia opened the door herself. The window of 
the living-room at the farm, as of course you know, 
is a large one, and from within you cannot help 
seeing anyone coming. Mr Caswall said he ven- 
tured to call, as he wished to make the acquaintance 
of all his tenants in a less formal way and more 
individually than had been possible to him on the 
previous day. The girls made him very welcome. 
They are very sweet girls those, sir. Someone will 
be very happy some day there — with either of them.” 
“ And that man may be you, Adam,” said Mr 
Salton heartily. 

A sad look came over the young man’s eyes, and 

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Hawk and Pigeon 59 

the fire his uncle had seen there died out. Likewise 
the timbre had left his voice, making it sound dread- 
fully lonely as he spoke : 

“ Such might crown my life. But that happiness, 
I fear, is not for me, or not without pain and loss 
and woe.” 

“ Well, it’s early days yet ! ” said Sir Nathaniel 

The young man turned on him his eyes, which 
had now grown excessively sad, as he answered : 

“ Yesterday — a few hours ago — that remark 
would have given me new hope — new courage ; 
but since then I have learned too much.” 

The old man, skilled in the human heart, did not 
attempt to argue in such a matter. He simply 
varied the idea and went on : 

“ Too early to give in, my boy.” 

“ I am not of a giving-in kind,” said the young 
man earnestly. “ But, after all, it is wise to realise 
a truth. And when a man, though he is young, 
feels as I do — as I have felt ever since yesterday, 
when I first saw Mimi’s eyes — his heart jumps. He 
does not need to learn things. He knows.” 

There was silence in the room, during which the 
twilight stole on imperceptibly. It was Adam who 
again broke the silence as he asked his uncle : 

“ Do you know, uncle, if we have any second 
sight in our family ? ” 

“Second sight! No, not that I ever heard of. 
Why ? ” 

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6o The Lair of the White Worm 

“ Because,” he answered slowly, “ I have a 
conviction over me which seems to answer all the 
conditions of second sight that I have ever heard 

“ And then ? ” asked the old man, much perturbed. 

“ And then the usual inevitable. What in the 
Hebrides and other places, where the Sight is a cult — 
a belief — is called ‘the doom’ — the court from 
which there is no appeal. I have often heard of 
second sight — you know we have many western 
Scots in Australia ; but I have realised more of its 
true inwardness in an instant of this afternoon than 
I did in the whole 'of my life previously — a granite 
wall stretching up to the very heavens, so high and 
so dark that the eye of God Himself cannot see 
beyond. Well, if the Doom must come, it must. 
That is all.” 

The voice of Sir Nathaniel broke in, smooth and 
sweet and grave, but very, very stern : 

“ Can there not be a fight for it ? There can for 
most things.” 

“ For most things, yes. But for the Doom, no. 
What a man can do I shall do. There will be — 
must be — a fight. When and where and how I know 
not. But a fight there will be. But, after all, what 
is a man in such a case ? ” 

“ A man ! Adam, there are three of us.” He 
looked at his old friend as he spoke, and that old 
friend’s eyes blazed. 

“ Ay, three of us,” he said, and his voice rang. 

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Hawk and Pigeon 

There was again a pause, and Sir Nathaniel, 
anxious to get {mck to less emotional and more 
neutral ground, said quietly : 

“ Tell us of the rest of the meeting. Omit no 
detail. It may be useful. Remember we are all 
pledged to this. It is a fight & Voutrance, and we can 
afford to throw away or forgo no chance.” 

Adam said quietly, looking at him : 

“ We shall throw away or lose nothing that 
we can help. We fight to win, and the stake is a 
life — perhaps more than one — we shall see.” Then 
he went on in a conversational tone, such as he had 
used when he spoke of the coming to the farm of 
Edgar Caswall : “ When Mr Caswall came in the 
Christy Minstrel touched his ridiculous hat and went 
away — at least, he went a short distance and there 
remained. It gave one the idea that he expected 
to be called and intended to remain in sight, or 
within hail. Then Mimi got another cup and made 
fresh tea, and we all went on together.” 

“ Was there anything uncommon — were you all 
quite friendly ? ” asked Sir Nathaniel quietly. 
Adam answered at once : 

“ Quite friendly. There was nothing that I 
could notice out of the common — except,” he went 
on, with a slight hardening of the voice, “ except 
that he kept his eyes fixed on Lilia in a way which 
was quite intolerable to any man who might hold 
her dear.” 

“ Now, in what way did he look ? ” asked Sir 

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62 The Lair of the White Worm 

Nathaniel. “ I am not doubting. I only ask for 

“ I can hardly say,” was the answer. “ There 
was nothing in itself offensive ; but no one could 
help noticing it.” 

“ You did. Miss Watford herself, who was the 
victim, and Mr Caswall, who was the offender, are 
out of range as witnesses. Was there anyone else 
who noticed ? ” 

“ Mimi did. I tell you her face flamed with 
anger as she saw the look.” 

“ What kind of look was it ? Over-ardent or too 
admiring, or what ? Was it the look of a lover or 
one who fain would be ? You understand ? ” 

“ Yes, sir, I quite understand. Anything of 
that sort I should of course notice. It would be 
part of my preparation for keeping my self-control — 
to which I am pledged.” 

“ If it were not amatory, was it threatening ? 
Where was the offence ? ” 

Adam smiled kindly at the old man : 

“ It was not amatory. Even if it was, such was 
to be expected. I should be the last man in the 
world to object, since I am myself an offender in that 
respect. Moreover, not only have I been taught 
to fight fair, but by nature I really believe I am 
just. I would be as tolerant of and as liberal to a 
rival if he were one as I should expect him to be to 
me. No, the look I mean was nothing of that kind. 
And so long as it did not lack proper respect I 

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Hawk and Pigeon 63 

should not of my own part condescend to notice it. 
I shall try to describe it to you. Did you ever 
seriously study the eyes of a hound ? ” 

“ At rest ? ” 

“ No, when he is following his instincts ! Or, 
better still,” Adam went on, “ the eyes of a bird of 
prey when he is following his instincts. Not when 
he is swooping, but merely when he is watching his 
quarry ? ” 

“ No,” said Sir Nathaniel, “ I don’t know that 
I ever did. Why, may I ask ? ” 

“ That was the look. Certainly not amatory or 
anything of that kind — and yet it was, it struck me, 
more dangerous, if not so deadly as an actual 

Again there was a silence, which Sir Nathaniel 
broke as he stood up : 

“ I think it would be well if we all thought over 
this by ourselves. Then we can renew the subject.” 

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Mb Salton had an appointment for six o’clock at 
Walsall. When he had driven off, Sir Nathaniel 
took Adam by the arm and said to him : 

“ May I come with you for a while to your study ? 
I want to speak to you privately without your uncle 
knowing about it, or even what the subject is. You 
don’t mind, do you ? It is not any idle curiosity. 
No, no. It is on the subject to which we are all 

Adam said with some constraint : 

“ Is it necessary to 'keep my uncle in the dark 
about it ? He might be offended.” 

“ It is not necessary ; but it is advisable. It is 
for his sake that I asked. My friend is an old man, 
and it might concern him unduly — even alarm him. 
I promise you there shall be nothing that could 
cause him anxiety in our silence, or at which he 
could take umbrage.” 

“ Go on, sir ! ” said Adam simply. 

When they were locked into the study he spoke : 
“ You see, your uncle is now an old man. I know 
it, for we were boys together. He has led an 


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Oolanga 65 

uneventful and somewhat self-contained life, so that 
any such condition of things as has now arisen is 
apt to perplex him from its very strangeness. In 
fact; any new matter is trying to old people. It 
has its own disturbances and its own anxieties, and 
neither of these things are good for lives that should 
be restful. Your uncle is a strong man with a 
very happy and placid nature. Given health and 
ordinary conditions of life, there is no reason why 
he should not live to be a hundred. You and I there- 
fore, who both love him, though in different ways, 
should make it our business to protect him from all 
disturbing influences. Such care shall undoubtedly 
add to the magnitude of his span of life and the 
happiness of his days. I am sure you will agree 
with me that any labour to this end would be well 
spent. All right, my boy ! I see your answer in 
your eyes ; so we need say no more of that. And 
now,” here his voice changed, “ tell me all that took 
place at that interview. You cannot be too ex- 
haustive. Nothing is too trivial. There are strange 
things in front of us — how strange we cannot at 
present even guess. Doubtless some of the difficult 
things to understand which lie behind the veil will 
in time be shown to us to see and understand. In 
the meantime, all we can do is to think and work 
patiently, fearlessly, and unselfishly to an end that 
we think is right. Tell me as well as you can — I 
shall try to help you. You had just got so far as 
where Lilia opened the door to Mr Caswall, and the 


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66 The Lair of the White Worm 

Christy Minstrel, who had followed him, went a 
little distance away and lurked. You also observed 
that Mimi was disturbed in her mind at the way 
Mr Caswall looked at her cousin/' 

“ Certainly — though ‘ disturbed in her mind ’ 
is only a poor way of expressing her objection." 

“ Can you remember well enough to describe 
Caswall’s eyes, and how Lilia looked, and what 
Mimi said and did ? Also of the Christy Minstrel, 
who is, I take it, Oolanga, CaswalTs West African 
servant. When you have said all you know of 
these things I want you to tell me what you have 
heard in any way about the ‘ Christy Minstrel.’ 
I take it this will be the most humorous way of 
bringing him in. Though indeed I doubt his being 
in any conceivable way a subject of humour. 
Tragedy would more probably be a follower in his 

“ I’ll do what I can, sir. All the time Mr Cas- 
wall was staring he kept his eyes fixed and motion- 
less — but not as if he was dead or in a trance. His 
forehead was wrinkled up as it is when one is trying 
to see through or into something. At the best of 
times his face i& not of very equable or of gentle 
expression ; but when it was screwed up like that 
it was almost diabolical. It frightened poor Lilia 
so that she trembled, and after a bit got so pale 
that I thought she had fainted. However, she 
held up and tried to stare back, but in a feeble 
kind of way. Then Mimi came close and held her 

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Oolanga 67 

hand. That braced her up, and — still, never ceasing 
her return stare — she got colour again and seemed 
more like herself.” 

“ Did he stare too ? ” 

“ More than ever. The weaker Lilia seemed 
the stronger he seemed to 'get, just as if he was 
feeding on her strength. All at once she turned 
round, threw up her hands, and fell down in a faint. 
I could not see what else happened just then, for 
Mimi had thrown herself on her knees beside her 
and hid her from me. Then there was something 
like a black shadow between us, and there was the 
pleasing form of the Christy Minstrel, looking more 
like a malignant devil than ever. He had better 
look out. I am not usually a patient man, and 
the sight of that ugly devil is enough to make an 
Eskimo’s blood boil. When he saw my face he 
seemed to realise danger — immediate danger — 
and he slunk out of the room as noiselessly as if he 
had been blown out. I learned one thing, however. 
He is an enemy, if ever a man had one.” 

“ That still leaves us three to two ! ” — this from 
Sir Nathaniel. 

“ Then Caswall slunk out much as the nigger had 
done. When he had gone, Lilia recovered at once. 
I hope I won’t see Mr Christy look at Lilia again ! ” 
As he spoke he took a nickel-plated revolver from 
his pocket and put it back again with an ominous 
remark : “ I don’t know if he wishes to be buried 
on English soil. He can have his choice if he likes. 

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68 The Lair of the White Worm 

Ordinarily speaking, he isn’t worth a cartridge; 

but when there is a lady in the case ” The 

revolver clicked. 

“ Now,” said Sir Nathaniel, anxious to restore 
peace, “ have you found out anything yet regard- 
ing your friend the Christy Minstrel ? I am 
anxious to be posted regarding him. I fear there 
will be, or may be, grave trouble with him.” 

“ Yes, sir, I’ve heard a good deal about him— of 
course it is not official ; but then hearsay may 
guide us at first. You know my man Davenport, 
I think. He really is my alter ego — private 
secretary, confidential man of business, and general 
factotum. He came with me in a journey of ex- 
ploration across the desert. He saved my life many 
times. He is devoted to me, and has my full 
confidence. I asked him to go on board the West 
African and have a good look round, and find out 
what he could about Mr Caswall. Naturally, he 
was struck with the aboriginal savage. He found 
one of the ship’s stewards who had been on the 
regular voyages to South Africa. He knew Oolanga 
and had made a study of him. He is a man who 
gets on well with niggers, and they opened their 
hearts to him. It seems that this Oolanga is quite 
a great person in the nigger world of the African 
West Coast. He has the two things which men of 
his own colour respect : he can make them afraid, 
and he is lavish with money. I don’t know whose 
money — but that does not matter. They are always 

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Oolanga 69 

ready to trumpet his greatness. Evil greatness it 
is — but neither does that matter. Briefly, this is 
his history. He was originally a witch-finder — 
about as low an occupation as exists amongst even 
aboriginal savages, amongst the mangrove swamps. 
Then he got up in the world and became an Obi-man, 
which gives an opportunity to wealth via black- 
mail. Finally, he reached the highest honour in 
hellish service. He became a user of Voodoo, 
which seems to be a service of the utmost baseness 
and cruelty. I was told some of his deeds of cruelty, 
which are simply sickening. They made me long 
for an opportunity of helping to drive him back to 
hell. You might think to look at him that you 
could measure in some way the extent of his vile- 
ness ; but it would be a vain hope. Monsters such 
as he is belong to an earlier and more rudimentary 
stage of barbarism. Whoever kills him when the 
time comes will not have to fear punishment, but 
to expect praise. He is in his way a clever fellow — 
for a nigger ; but is none the less dangerous or the 
less hateful for that. The men in the ship told me 
that he was a collector : some of them had seen his 
collections. Such collections ! All that was potent 
for evil in bird or beast, or even in fish. Beaks 
that could break and rend and tear. All the 
birds represented were of a predatory kind. Even 
the fishes are those which are born to destroy, to 
wound, to torture. The collection, I assure you, 
was an object lesson in human malignity. This 

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70 The Lair of the White Worm 

being has enough evil in his face to frighten even 
a strong man. It is little wonder that the sight of 
it unexpectedly put that poor girl into a dead faint ! 
If that other savage intends to keep him round 
here they may build a new prison at once ; for there 
won’t be a decent man or woman in his neighbour- 
hood that won’t be a criminal at the very start, if 
indeed it be a crime to destroy such a thing.” 
Adam was up in the early morning and took a 
smart walk round the Brow. As he was passing 
Diana’s Grove he looked in on the short avenue of 
trees, and noticed the snakes killed on the previous 
morning by the mongoose. They all lay in a row, 
straight and rigid, as if they had been placed by 
hands. Their skins seemed all damp and sticky, 
and they were covered all over with ants and all 
sorts of insects. They looked loathsome, so after 
a glance he passed on. A little later, when his 
steps took him, naturally enough, past the entrance 
to Mercy Farm, he was passed by the Christy 
Minstrel moving quickly under the trees wherever 
there was shadow. Laid across one extended arm, 
and looking like dirty towels across a rail, he had 
the horrid-looking snakes. He did not seem to 
see Adam, to the pleasant surprise of the latter. 
No one was to be seen at Mercy except a few work- 
men in the farmyard. So, after waiting round on 
a chance of seeing Mimi, he began to go slowly home. 
Once more he was passed on the way. This time 
it was by Lady Arabella, walking hurriedly and 

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Oolanga 7 1 

so furiously angry that she did not seem to recog- 
nise him even to the extent of acknowledging his 
bow. He wondered, but simply went on his way. 
When he got to Lesser Hill, he went to the coach- 
house where the box with the mongoose was kept, 
and took it with him, intending to finish at the 
Mound of Stone what he had begun the previous 
morning with regard to the extermination. He 
found that the snakes were even more easily 
attacked than on the previous day ; no less than 
six were killed in the first half-hour. As no more 
appeared, he took it for granted that the morning’s 
work was over, and went towards home. The 
mongoose had by this time become accustomed 
to him, and was willing to let himself be handled 
freely. Adam lifted him up and put him on his 
shoulders and walked on. Presently he saw a 
lady advancing towards him, and as they grew 
nearer recognised Lady Arabella. Hitherto the 
mongoose had been quiet, like a playful affec- 
tionate kitten ; but when the two got close he 
was horrified to see the mongoose, in a state of 
the wildest fury, with every hair standing on end, 
jump from his shoulder and run towards Lady 
Arabella. It looked so furious and so intent on 
attack that he called out : 

“ Look out — look out ! The animal is furious 
and means to attack.” 

She looked more than ever disdainful and was 
passing on ; the mongoose jumped at her in a furious 

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72 The Lair of the White Worm 

attack. Adam rushed forward with his stick, the 
only weapon he had. But just as he got within 
striking distance the lady drew out a revolver and 
shot the animal, breaking his backbone. Not satis- 
fied with this, she poured shot after shot into him 
till the magazine was exhausted. There was no 
coolness or hauteur about her now. She seemed 
more furious even than the animal, her face trans- 
formed with hate, and as determined to kill as he 
had appeared to be. Adam, not knowing exactly 
what to do, lifted his hat in apology and hurried 
on to Lesser Hill. 

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At breakfast Sir Nathaniel noticed that Adam was 
put out about something. But he said nothing. 
The lesson of silence is better remembered in age 
than in youth. When they were both in the study, 
where Sir Nathaniel had followed him, Adam at 
once began to tell his companion of what had 
happened. Sir Nathaniel looked graver and graver 
as the narration proceeded, and when Adam had 
stopped he remained silent for several minutes. 
At last he said : 

“ This is very grave. I have not formed my 
thought yet ; but it seems to me at first impression 
that this is worse than anything we had thought 

“ Why, sir ? ” said Adam. “ Is the killing of a 
mongoose — no matter by whom — so serious a thing 
as all that ? ” 

The other smoked on quietly for quite another 
few minutes before he spoke. 

“ When I have properly thought it over I may 
moderate my opinion. But in the meantime it 
seems to me that there is something dreadful 


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74 The Lair of the White Worm 

behind all this — something that may affect all our 
lives — that may mean the issue of life or death to 
any of us.” 

Adam sat up quickly. 

“ Do tell me, sir, what is in your mind — if, of 
course, you have no objection to, or do not think it 
better not.” 

“ I have no objection, Adam. In fact, if I had, 
I should have to overcome it. I fear there can be 
no more hidden or reserved thoughts between us.” 
“ Indeed, sir, that sounds serious, worse than 
serious ! ” 

Again they both resumed their cigars, and pre- 
sently Sir Nathaniel said gravely : 

“ Adam, I greatly fear the time has come for us — 
for you and me, at all events — to speak out plainly 
to one another. Does not there seem something 
very mysterious about this ? ” 

“ I have thought so, sir, all along. The only diffi- 
culty one has is what one is to think and where to 

“ Let us begin with what you have told me. 
First take the conduct of the mongoose.” 

Adam waited ; the other went on : 

“ He was quiet, even friendly and affectionate 
with you. He only attacked the snakes, which is, 
after all, only his business in life.” 

" That is so ! ” 

“ Then we must try to find out or imagine some 
reason why he attacked Lady Arabella.” 

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Survivals 75 

“ I fear we shall have to imagine ; there is no 
logical answer to that question.” 

“ Then let us imagine. He had not shown any 
disposition hitherto to attack strangers ? ” 

“ No ; the opposite. He made friends at once 
with everyone he came across.” 

“ Then even if his action is based on instinct, why 
does he single out one person in such a way ? ” 

“ In that, sir, I see a difficulty, or, if you will 
permit me, it may be only a flaw in your reasoning.” 
“ Permit ! I shall be glad. Go on.” 

“ It seems to me that you take ‘ instinct ’ as a 
definite fixed thing concerning which there can be 
only one reading — even by the brute creation.” 

“ Go on, Adam. This is very interesting.” 

* * We both may have erred in our idea of ‘ instinct/ 
May it not be that a mongoose may have merely the 
instinct to attack, that nature does not allow or 
provide him with the fine reasoning powers to dis- 
criminate who he is to attack ? * 

“ Good ! Of course that may be so. But then, 
on the other hand, should we not satisfy ourselves 
why he does wish to attack anything? If for 
centuries in all parts of the world this particular 
animal is known to attack only one kind of 
other animal, are we not justified in assuming that 
when a case strange to us comes before us, if one of 
the first class attacks a hitherto unclassed animal, 
he recognises in that animal some quality which it 
has in common with the hitherto classed animal ? ” 

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76 The Lair of the White Worm 

“ That is a good argument, sir,” Adam went on, 
“ but a dangerous one. If we followed it out with 
pure logic it would lead us to believe that Lady 
Arabella is a snake. And I doubt if we — either of 
us — are prepared to go so far.” 

“ So far as I am concerned I am to follow blindly 
the lead of logic. But before doing so we have a 
duty to fulfil.’ 

“ What is that duty, sir ? ” 

“ The first of all duties, truth. We must be sure 
before going to such an end that there is no point 
as yet unconsidered which would account for the 
unknown thing which puzzles us.” 

“ As how ? ” 

“ Well, suppose the instinct works on some 
physical basis — sight, for instance, or smell. If 
there were anything in recent juxtaposition to the 
accused which would look like the cause or would 
carry the scent, surely that would supply the missing 
cause. ’ 

“ Of course ! ” Adam spoke with conviction. 

Sir Nathaniel went on : 

“ Now, from what you tell me, your Christy Min- 
strel friend had just come from the direction of 
Diana’s Grove carrying the dead snakes, which the 
mongoose had killed the previous morning. Might 
not the scent have been carried that way ? ” 

“ Of course it might, probably was. I never 
thought of that. Look here, sir, I really think it 
will be prudent of us not to draw final conclusions 

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till we know more. At any rate that episode has 
a suggestive hint for us — one which we can follow 
up without saying anything to anybody. Then we 
shall be in a safer position for going on.” 

“ Good and sensible ! ” Sir Nathaniel spoke 
approvingly ; and so it was tacitly arranged between 
the two to wait. 

But whilst they were sitting in silence an idea 
struck Adam, and he thought it wise to make it 
known to the elder man. 

“ Two things I want to ask you, if I may. One 
is a sort of corollary to the other.” Sir Nathaniel 
listened. He went on : “ Is there any possible way 
of even guessing approximately how long a scent 
will remain? You see, this is a natural scent, and 
may derive from a place where it has been effective 
for thousands of years. Then, does a scent of any 
kind carry with it any form or quality of another 
kind, either good or evil ? I ask you because one 
ancient name of the house lived in by the lady who 
was attacked by the mongoose was ‘ The Lair of 
the White Worm.’ If any of these things be so, 
our possibilities of knowledge and our difficulties 
have multiplied indefinitely. They may even 
change in kind. We may get into even moral 
entanglements ; before we know it we may be even 
in the midst of a bedrock struggle between good and 

Sir Nathaniel, after a pause, asked : 

“ Is that the question you wished to ask me ? ” 

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78 The Lair of the White Worm 

“ Yes, sir.” 

Sir Nathaniel smiled gravely. 

“ I don’t see on what the corollary rests. With 
regard to the first question— or the first part, though, 
so far as I know, there are no fixed periods with 
which a scent may be active — I think we may take 
it that that period does not run into thousands of 
years. As to whether any moral change accom- 
panies a physical one, I can only say that I have met 
no argument of proof or even no assertion of the 
fact. At the same time, we must remember that 
‘ good ’ and ‘ evil ’ are terms so wide as to take in 
the whole scheme of creation and all that is implied 
by them and by their mutual action and reaction. 
Generally, I would say that in the scheme of a 
First Cause anything is possible. So long as the 
inherent forces or tendencies of any one thing are 
veiled from us we must expect mystery. This 
hides from us more than we at first conceive, and 
as time goes on and some light gets into the darker 
places, we are able to understand that there are other 
darknesses. And so on, until the time shall .come 
when the full light of understanding beats upon us.” 
“ Then I presume, sir,” said Adam, “ that it 
would be at least wise of us to leave these questions 
alone till we know more.” 

“ Most certainly. To listen and remember should 
be our guiding principle in such an inquiry.” 

“ There is one other question on which I should 
like to ask your opinion. It is the last of my general 

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questions — for the present. Suppose that there are 
any permanent forces appertaining to the past, 
what we may call ‘ survivals/ do these belong to 
good as well as to evil ? For instance, if the scent of 
the primaeval monster can so remain in proportion 
to the original strength, can the same be true of 
things of good import ? ” 

Sir Nathaniel thought a while, then he answered : 
“ We must be careful from the beginning not to 
confuse the physical and the moral, ^'differentiate 
the two and to keep them differentiated. I can 
see that already you have switched on the moral 
entirely, so perhaps we had better follow it up first. 
On the side of the moral we have certain justifica- 
tion for belief in the utterances of revealed religion. 
For instance, * the effectual fervent prayer of a 
righteous man availeth much 9 is altogether for 
good. We have nothing of a similar kind on the 
side of evil. But if we accept this dictum we need 
have no more fear of ‘ mysteries ’ : these become 
thenceforth merely obstacles.” 

Adam waited in silence, which was intended to be, 
and was, respectful. Then he suddenly changed to 
another phase of the subject. 

“ And now, sir, may I turn for a few minutes to 
purely practical things, or rather to matters of 
historical fact ? 99 

Sir Nathaniel bowed acquiescence. He went on : 
“ We have already spoken of the history, so far 
as it is known, of some of the places round us — 

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8o The Lair of the White Worm 

‘ Castra Regis/ ‘ Diana’s Grove ’ and * The Lair of 
the White Worm.' I would like to ask if there is 
anything not necessarily of evil import about any 
of the places ? ” 

“ Which ? ” asked Sir Nathaniel shrewdly. 

“ Well, for instance, this house and Mercy 
Farm ? ” 

“ Here we turn,” said Sir Nathaniel, “ to the other 
side, the light side of things. Let us take Mercy 
Farm first. You have no objection ? ” 

“ Thank you, sir.” The young man’s comment 
was complete and illuminative. 

“ Perhaps we had better remember the history 
of that particular place. The details may later on 
help us in coming to some useful, or at all events 
interesting, conclusion. 

“ When Augustine was sent by Pope Gregory to 
Christianise England in the time of the Romans, he 
was received and protected by Ethelbert, King of 
Kent, whose wife, daughter of Charibert, King of 
Paris, was a Christian, and did much for Augustine. 
She founded a nunnery in memory of Columba, 
which was named Bedes misericordice , the House of 
Mercy, and, as the region was Mercian, the two 
names became inextricably involved. As Columba 
is the Latin for dove, the dove became a sort of 
signification of the nunnery. She seized on the 
idea and made the newly-founded nunnery a house 
of doves. Someone sent her a freshly-discovered 
dove, a sort of carrier, but which had in the white 

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8 1 

feathers of its head and neck the form of a religious 
cowl. And so in especial the bird became the 
symbol of the nuns of Mercy. The nunnery 
flourished for more than a century, when, in the time 
of Penda, who was the reactionary of heathendom, 
it fell into decay. In the meantime the doves, 
which, protected by religious feeling, had increased 
mightily, were known in all Catholic communities. 
When King Offa ruled in Mercia about a hundred 
and fifty years later, he restored Christianity, and 
under its protection the nunnery of St Columba was 
restored and its doves flourished again. In process 
of time this religious house again fell into desuetude ; 
but before it disappeared it had achieved a great 
name for good works, and in especial for the piety 
of its members. I think I see now where your 
argument leads. I do not know if you started it, 
having thought it out to the full. But in any case 
I will venture an opinion ; that if deeds and prayers 
and hopes and earnest thinking leave anywhere any 
moral effect, Mercy Farm and all around it have 
almost the right to be considered holy ground.” 

“ Thank you, sir,” said Adam earnestly, and was 
silent. Again Sir Nathaniel understood. 


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Adam Salton, though he made little talk, did not 
let the grass grow under his feet in any matter 
which he had undertaken, or in which he was 
interested. He had agreed with Sir Nathaniel 
that they should not do anything with regard to 
the mystery of Lady Arabella's fear of the mongoose, 
but he steadily pursued his course in being prepared 
to do whenever the opportunity might come. He 
was in his own mind perpetually casting about for 
information or clues which might lead to such. 
Baffled by the killing of the mongoose, he looked 
around for another line to follow. He did not 
intend to give up the idea of there being a link 
between the woman and the animal, but he was 
already preparing a second string to his bow. His 
new idea was to use the faculties of Oolanga, so 
far as he could, in the service of discovery. His 
first move was to send Davenport to Liverpool to 
try to find the steward of the West African , who had 
told him about Oolanga, and then to get him to try 
to induce (by bribery or other means) the nigger to 
come to the Brow. So soon as he himself would 


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Smelling Death 83 

have speech of the Voodoo-man he would be able 
to learn from him something useful. Davenport 
went away in the early morning, and was successful 
in both his missions, for he had to get Boss to 
send another mongoose, and also the one reserved 
for sending when told ; he was able to tell Adam 
that he had seen the steward, who already told him 
a lot he wanted to know, and had also arranged to 
have Oolanga brought to Lesser Hill the following 
day. At this point Adam saw his way sufficiently 
clear to adumbrate to Davenport with fair exact- 
ness what he wished him to find out. He had come 
to the conclusion that it would be better — certainly 
at first — not himself to appear in the matter, with 
which Davenport was fully competent to deal. It 
would be time for himself to take a personal part 
when matters had advanced a little further. 

That evening, when Davenport arrived, he had 
a long interview with Adam, in which he told what 
he had learned, partly from the ship steward, partly 
from the other Africans in the ship’s service, and 
partly from Oolanga’s own boasting. If what the 
nigger said was in any wise true, the man had a 
rare gift which might be useful in the quest they 
were after. He could, as it were, “ smell death.” 
If any one was dead, if any one had died, or if a 
place had been used in connection with death, he 
seemed to know the broad fact by intuition. Adam 
made up his mind that to test this faculty with 
regard to several places would be his first task. 

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84 The Lair of the White Worm 

Naturally he was anxious for this, and the time 
passed slowly. The only comfort was the arrival 
the next morning of a strong packing case, locked, 
from Boss, the key being in the custody of Daven- 
port. In the case were two smaller boxes, both 
locked. One of them contained a mongoose to 
replace that killed by Lady Arabella ; the other was 
the reserved mongoose which had already killed 
the king-cobra in Nepaul. When both the animals 
had been safely put under lock and key in the place 
arranged for them, he felt that he might breathe 
more freely. Of course no one was allowed to 
know the secret of their existence in the house, 
except himself and Davenport. He arranged that 
Davenport should take Oolanga round the neigh- 
bourhood for a walk, stopping at each of the places 
which he designated. Having gone all along the 
Brow, he was to return the same way and induce 
him to touch on the same subjects in talking with 
Adam, who was to meet them as if by chance at 
the farthest part — that beyond Mercy Farm. 
Davenport was never to lose sight of him and was 
to bring him back to Liverpool safely, and leave 
him on board the ship, where he was to wait till his 
master should send for him. 

The incidents of the day were just what Adam 
expected. At Mercy Farm, at Diana’s Grove, at 
Castra Regis, and a few other spots, he stopped and, 
opening his wide nostrils as if to sniff boldly, said 
that he smelled death. It was not always in the 

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Smelling Death 8 5 

same form. At Mercy Farm he said there were 
many small deaths. At Diana’s Grove his bearing 
was different. There was a distinct sense of 
enjoyment about him, especially when he spoke of 
many great deaths long ago. Here, too, he sniffed 
in a strange way, like a bloodhound at check, and 
looked puzzled. He said no word in either praise 
or disparagement, but in the centre of the Grove 
where, hidden amongst ancient oak stumps, was a 
block of granite slightly hollowed on the top, he 
bent low and placed his forehead on the ground. 
This was the only place where he showed distinct 
reverence. At the Castle, though he spoke of 
much death, he showed no sign of respect. There 
was evidently something about Diana’s Grove 
which both interested and baffled him. Before 
leaving he moved all over the place unsatisfied, 
and in one spot where, close to the edge of the Brow, 
was a deep hollow, he appeared to be afraid. After 
returning several times to this place, he suddenly 
turned and ran in a panic of fear to the higher 
ground, crossing as he did so the outcropping rock. 
Then he seemed to breathe more freely, and even 
recovered some of his jaunty impudence. 

All this seemed to satisfy Adam’s expectations. 
He went back to Lesser Hill with a serene and 
settled calm upon him. 

When he went back to the house, Adam met Sir 
Nathaniel, who followed him into his study, saying 
as he closed the door behind him : 

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86 The Lair of the White Worm 

“ By the way, I forgot to ask you details about 
one thing. When that extraordinary staring epi- 
sode of Mr Caswall went on, how did Lilia take it — 
how did she bear herself ? ” 

“ She looked frightened, and trembled just as I 
have seen a pigeon with a hawk, or a bird with a 

“ Thanks. That will do. It is just as I expected. 
There have been circumstances in the Caswall family 
which lead one to believe that they have had from 
the earliest times some extraordinary mesmeric or 
hypnotic faculty. Indeed, a skilled eye could read 
so much in their physiognomy. That shot of yours, 
whether by instinct or intention, of the hawk and 
the pigeon was peculiarly apposite. I think we 
may settle on that as a fixed trait to be accepted 
throughout our investigation.” 

When the dusk had fallen, Adam took the new 
mongoose — not the one from Nepaul — and, carrying 
the box slung over his shoulder, strolled towards 
Diana’s Grove. Close to the gateway he met Lady 
Arabella, clad as usual in tightly fitting white, 
which showed off her extraordinarily slim figure. 

To his intense astonishment the mongoose allowed 
hei; to pet him, take him up in her arms and fondle 
him. As she was coming in his direction he left 
him with her and walked on. 

Round the roadway between the entrances of 
Diana’s Grove and Lesser Hill were many trees 
with tall thin trunks with not much foliage except 

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“Lady Arabella was dancing in a fantastic sort of way” 

[facing page 86 

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Smelling Death 87 

at top. In the dusk this place was shadowy, and 
the view of anyone was hampered by the clustering 
trunks. In the uncertain, tremulous light which 
fell through the tree-tops, it was hard to distinguish 
anything clearly, and as Adam looked back it 
seemed to him that Lady Arabella was actually 
dancing in a fantastic sort of way. Her arms were 
opening and shutting and winding about strangely ; 
the white fur which she wore round her throat was 
also twisting about, or seemed to be. Not a sound 
was to be heard. There was something uncanny in 
all this silent movement which struck Adam as 
worthy of notice ; so he waited, almost stopping 
his progress altogether, and walked with lingering 
steps, so as to let her overtake him. But as the dusk 
was thickening he could distinguish no more than 
he could at first. At last somehow he lost sight 
of her altogether, and turned back on his track to 
find her. Presently he came across her close to 
her own gate. She was leaning over the paling of 
split oak branches which formed the paling of the 
avenue. He could not see the mongoose, so he 
asked her where he had gone to. 

“ He slipt out of my arms while I was petting him,” 
she answered, “ and disappeared under the hedges.” 

As she spoke she was walking back with him looking 
for the little animal. They found him at a place 
where the avenue widened so as to let carriages 
pass each other. The little creature seemed quite 
changed. He had been ebulliently active ; now 

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88 The Lair of the White Worm 

he was dull and spiritless — seemed to be dazed. 
He allowed himself to be lifted by either of the pair ; 
but when he was alone with Lady Arabella he kept 
looking round him in a strange way, as though 
trying to escape. When they had come out on the 
roadway Adam held the mongoose tight to him, 
and, lifting his hat to his companion, moved quickly 
towards Lesser Hill ; he and Lady Arabella lost 
sight of each other in the thickening gloom. 

When Adam got home he put the mongoose in 
his box, which was left in the room where he had 
been, and locked the door. The other mongoose — 
the one from Nepaul — was safely locked in his own 
box, but he lay quiet and did not stir. When he 
got to his study Sir Nathaniel came in, shutting the 
door behind him. 

“ I have come,” he said, “ while we have an 
opportunity of being alone, to tell you something of 
the Caswall family which I think will interest you. 
Somehow we got switched off when we were within 
touch of the subject this afternoon.” 

Adam prepared himself to listen. The other 
began at once : 

“ The point I was coming to to-day, when we 
were diverted from the subject, was this : there 
is, or used to be, a belief in this part of the world 
that the Caswall family had some strange power of 
making the wills of other persons subservient to 
their own. There are many allusions to the subject 
in memoirs and other unimportant works, but I 

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Smelling Death 89 

only know of one where the subject is spoken of 
definitely. It is Mercia and its Worthies, written 
by Ezra Toms more than a hundred years ago. The 
author more than infers that it was a mesmeric 
power, for he goes into the question of the close 
association of the then Edgar Caswall with 
Mesmer in Paris. He speaks of Caswall being a 
pupil and the fellow worker of Mesmer, and states 
that though, when the latter left France, he took 
away with him a vast quantity of philosophical and 
electric instruments, he was never known to use 
them again. He once made it known to a friend 
that he had given them to his old pupil. The term 
he used was odd, for it was ‘ bequeathed,’ but no 
such bequest of Mesmer was ever made known. 
At any rate the instruments were missing, and never 
turned up. I just thought I would call your atten- 
tion to this, as you might want to make a note of it. 
We have not come, yet at all events, to the mystery 
of the ‘ hawk and the pigeon.’ ” 

Just as he finished speaking, a servant came into 
the room to tell Adam that there was some strange 
noise coming from the locked room into which he 
had gone when he came in. He hurried off to the 
place at once, Sir Nathaniel going with him. Hav- 
ing locked the door behind him, Adam opened the 
packing-case where the boxes of the two mongooses 
were locked up. There was no sound from one of 
them, but from the other a queer restless struggling. 
Having opened both boxes, he found that the noise 

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90 The Lair of the White Worm 

was from the Nepaul animal, which, however, 
became quiet at once. In the other box the new 
mongoose lay dead, with every appearance of having 
been strangled. 

There was nothing to be done that night. So 
Adam locked the boxes and the room again, taking 
with him the keys ; and both he and Sir Nathaniel 
went off to bed. 

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Adam S Alton was up with the dawn, and, taking 
a fast horse, rode off to Liverpool, bringing with 
him, slung across his shoulders, the box with the 
body of the mongoose. He was so early that 
he had to wake up Mr Ross. From him he, 
however, got what he wanted, the address of a 
comparative anatomist, who helped him in dealing 
with the health of his menagerie. Dr Cleaver 
lived not far away, and in a very short time Adam 
was ushered into his study. Unstrapping the box, 
he took out the body of the mongoose, now as stiff 
as wood, for the rigor mortis had long ago set in. 
Laying the body on Dr Cleaver’s table, he said : 

“ Last night this was frisky in my arms. Now it 
is dead. What did it die of ? ” 

The doctor went methodically to work and made 
a full examination. Then he said gravely : 

“ It may be necessary to make a more exhaustive 
examination. But in the meantime, I may say 
that it has been choked to death. And, considering 
the nature of its uses and its enemies, I think it was 
killed by some powerful snake of the constrictor 

9 * 

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92 The Lair of the White Worm 

class. Vast pressure must have been exercised, 
as every bone in its body seems to have been broken.” 
As the doctor accompanied Adam to the door, he 
said : “ Of course it is none of my business, but 
as I am a comparative anatomist, such things are 
of keen interest to me — I shall be really grateful if 
some time you will give me details of the death ; 
and if you can possibly do so, supply me with weights 
and measures of both the animals.” 

Adam, on paying his fee, thanked him warmly, 
gave him his card, and promised that some time 
later on he would be happy to tell him all he himself 
knew. Then he rode back to Lesser Hill and got 
in just as his uncle and Sir Nathaniel were sitting 
down to breakfast. 

When breakfast was over, Sir Nathaniel went with 
Adam to the study. When he had closed the door, 
and Adam had told him all up to the previous night, 
he looked at the young man with a grave, inquiring 
glance and said : 

“ Well ? ” 

Adam told him all that occurred at his visit to 
Dr Cleaver. He finished up with : 

“ I am at sea, sir. I am looking for your opinion.” 
“ So am I for yours,” said Sir Nathaniel. “ This 
gets worse and frorse. It seems to me that the 
mysteries are only beginning. We have now a 
detective story added. I suppose there is nothing 
to do but to wait — as we are doing — for the other 
parts of the mystery.” 

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“ Do you want me specially for anything this 
afternoon ? ” asked Adam, adding, “ Of course I 
am at your command if you do. If not, I thought 
of calling at Mercy Farm.” He said this with a 
diffidence which made the old man’s stem features 

“ I suppose you would not wish me to come with 
you?” he asked playfully. 

Adam at once replied: 

“ I should love it, sir ; but to-day I think it would 
be better not.” Then, seeing the other’s inquiring 
look, he went on : “ The fact is, sir, that Mr Caswall 
is going to tea to-day, and I think it would be wiser 
if I were present.” 

“ Quite so. Of course you will tell me later if 
there should take place anything which it would 
be well for me to know.” 

“ Certainly. I shall try to see you as soon as I 
get home.” 

They said no more, and a little after four o’clock 
Adam set out for Mercy. 

He was home just as the clocks were striking 
six. He was pale and upset, but otherwise looked 
strong and alert. The old man summed up his 
appearance and manner thus : “ Braced up for 
battle.” Realising that Adam wished to talk 
with him, he quietly went over and locked the 

“ Now ! ” said Sir Nathaniel, and settled down 
to listen, looking at Adam steadily and listening 

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94 The Lair of the White Worm 

attentively that he might miss nothing — even the 
inflection of a word. 

“ I found Miss Watford and Mimi at home. 
Watford had been detained by business on the farm. 
Miss Watford received me as kindly as before. 
Mimi, too, seemed glad to see me. Mr Caswall 
came so soon after I had arrived, that he or some- 
one on his behalf must have been watching for me. 
He was followed closely by the Christy Minstrel, 
who was puffing hard as if he had been running — 
so it was probably he who watched. Mr Caswall 
was very cool and collected, but there was a more 
than usually iron look about his face that I did not 
like. However, both he and I got on very well. He 
talked pleasantly on all sorts of questions. The 
nigger waited a while and then disappeared as on 
the other occasion. Mr Caswall’s eyes were as 
usual fixed on Lilia. True, they seemed to be very 
deep and earnest, but there was no offence in them. 
Had it not been for the drawing down of the 
brows and the stem set of the jaws, I should not at 
first have noticed anything. But the stare, when 
presently it began, increased in intensity. I could 
see that Lilia began to suffer from nervousness, as 
on the first occasion ; but she carried herself bravely. 
However, the more nervous she grew, the harder 
Mr Caswall stared. It was evident to me that he 
had come prepared for some sort of mesmeric or 
hypnotic battle. After a while he began to throw 
glances round him and then raised his hand, 

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without letting either Lilia or Mimi see the action. 
It was evidently intended to give some sign to the 
Christy Minstrel, for he came, in his usual stealthy 
way, quietly in by the hall door, which was open. 
Then Mr CaswalTs efforts at staring became inten- 
sified, and poor Lilia’s nervousness grew greater. 
Mimi, seeing that her cousin was distressed, came 
close to her, as if to comfort or strengthen her 
with the consciousness of her presence. This 
evidently made a difficulty for Mr Caswall, for his 
efforts, without seeming to get feebler, seemed less 
effective. This continued for a little while, to the 
gain of both Lilia and Mimi. Then there was a 
diversion. Without word or apology the door 
opened and Lady Arabella March entered the room. 
We had seen her coming through the great window. 
Without a word she crossed the room and stood 
beside Mr Caswall. It really was very like a fight 
of a peculiar kind ; and the longer it was sustained 
the more earnest — the fiercer — it grew. That 
combination of forces — the over-lord, the white 
woman, and the black man — would have cost some — 
probably all of them — their lives in the Southern 
States of America. To us all it was simply horrible. 
But all that you can understand. This time, to go 
on in sporting phrase, it was understood by all to 
be a ‘ fight to a finish,’ and the mixed group did not 
slacken a moment or relax their efforts. On Lilia 
the strain began to tell disastrously. She grew 
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96 The Lair of the White Worm 

nerves were out of order. She trembled like an 
aspen, and though she struggled bravely, I noticed 
that her legs would hardly stiffen. A dozen times 
she seemed about to collapse in a faint, but each 
time, on catching sight of Mimi’s eyes, she made a 
fresh struggle and pulled through. 

“ By now Mr Caswall’s face had lost its appearance 
of passivity. No longer was it immobile. His 
eyes glowed with a red fiery light. He was still 
the old Boman in inflexibility of purpose; but 
grafted on the Boman was a new Berserker fury. 
The statical force of his nature had entered on a 
new phase. It had become dynamical. His com- 
panions in the baleful work seemed to have taken 
on something of his feeling. Lady Arabella looked 
like a soulless, pitiless being, not human unless it 
revived old legends of transformed human beings 
•who had lost their humanity in some transformation 
or in the sweep of natural savagery. As for the 
Christy Minstrel, the only comparison I can suggest 
was a fiend from hell, engaged in the active pursuit 
of his natural purpose. I think I have already 
given you my impression of his lofty natural beauty. 
That I take back, for then I only spoke of possibili- 
ties. . . . Now that I have seen his devilry in full 
blast, such a belief is inadequate. I can only say, 
that it was solely due to the self-restraint which 
you impressed on me that I did not wipe him out 
as he stood — without warning, without fair play — 
without a single one of the graces of life and death. 

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Lilia was silent in the helpless concentration of 
deadly fear ; Mimi was all resolve and self-forget- 
fulness, so intent on the soul-struggle in which she 
was engaged that there was no possibility of any 
other thought. As for myself, the bonds of will 
which held me inactive seemed like bands of steel 
which numbed all my faculties, except sight and 
hearing. I was limited absolutely to the power of 
waiting. We seemed fixed in an impasse . Some- 
thing must happen, though the power of guessing 
what was inactive. As in a dream, I saw Mimi’s 
hand move restlessly, as if groping for something. 
It was like a hand grown blind. Mechanically it 
touched that of Lilia, and in that instant she was 
transformed. It was as if youth and strength 
entered afresh into something already dead to 
sensibility and intention. As if by inspiration, 
she grasped the other’s hand with a force which 
blenched the knuckles. Her face suddenly flamed, 
as if some divine light shone through it. Her form 
rose and expanded till it stood out majestically. 
Lifting her right hand, she stepped forward towards 
Caswall, and with a bold sweep of her arm seemed 
to drive some strange force towards him. Again 
and again was the gesture repeated, the man falling 
back from her at each movement. Towards the 
door he retreated, she following. There was a 
sound as of the cooing sob of doves, which seemed 
to multiply and intensify with each second. The 
sound from the unseen source rose and rose as he 


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98 The Lair of the White Worm 

retreated, till finally it swelled out in a triumphant 
peal, as she, with a fierce sweep of her arm, seemed 
to hurl something at her foe, and he, moving his 
hands blindly before his face, appeared to bo swept 
through the doorway and out into the open sunlight. 
At the same moment as he went, the light of day 
became suddenly dimmed, as though a mighty 
shadow had swept over the face of the earth. The 
air was full of a fierce continuous sound as of whirring 

“ All at once my own faculties were fully restored ; 
I could see and hear everything, and be fully 
conscious of what was going on. Even the figures 
of the baleful group were there, though dimly 
seen as through a veil — a shadowy veil. I saw 
Lilia sink down in a swoon, and Mi mi throw up 
her arms in a gesture of triumph. As I saw her 
through the great window, the sunshine flooded 
the landscape, which, however, was momentarily 
becoming eclipsed by an on-rush of a myriad birds. 

“ Hark to the rushing of their wings ! ” 

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By the next morning, daylight showed the actual 
danger which threatened the east side of England. 
From every part of the eastern counties reports 
were received concerning the enormous immigration 
of birds. Experts were sending — on their own 
account, on behalf of learned societies, and through 
local and imperial governing bodies — reports deal- 
ing with the matter, and suggesting remedies. As 
might have been expected, the latter were mostly 
worthless. They were either disguised or undis- 
guised advertisements with some personal object, 
or else merely the babble of persons desirous of 
notoriety on a quasi-scientific basis. The long- 
suffering public showed by its indifference to such 
reports forced upon them that they were not such 
fools as they were supposed to be. Of course the 
reports closer to home were more disturbing, even 
if more monotonous, for Castra Regis was the very 
centre of the trouble. All day long, and even all 
night long, it would seem that the birds were coming 
thicker from all quarters. Doubtless many were 
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to get less. Each bird seemed to sound some note 
of fear or anger or seeking, and the whirring of wings 
never ceased nor lessened. The air was full of a 
muttered throb. No window or barrier could shut 
out the sound, till the ears of any listening became 
partly paralysed by the ceaseless sound. So 
monotonous it was, so cheerless, so disheartening, 
so melancholy, that all longed, but in vain, for any 
variety, no matter how terrible it might be. 

The second morning the reports from all the dis- 
tricts round were more alarming than ever. Farmers 
began to dread the coming of winter as they saw 
the dwindling of the timely fruitfulness of the earth. 
And as yet it was only warning of evil, not 
the evil accomplished ; the ground began to look 
bare whenever some passing sound temporarily 
frightened the birds. 

Edgar Caswall tortured his brain for a long time 
unavailingly, to think of some means of getting rid 
of what he as well as his neighbours had come to 
regard as a plague of birds. At last he recalled a 
circumstance which promised a solution of the 
difficulty. The experience was of some years ago 
in China, far up-country, towards the head- waters of 
the Yang-tze-kiang, where the smaller tributaries 
spread out in a sort of natural irrigation scheme 
to supply the wilderness of paddy-fields. It was 
at the time of the ripening rice, and the wilderness 
of birds which came to feed on the coming crop was 
a serious menace not only to the district, but to the 

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“ The kite was shaped like a great haw{” 

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The Kite 


country at large. The farmers, who were more or 
less afflicted with the same trouble every season, 
knew how to deal with it. They made a vast kite, 
which they caused to be flown over the centre spot of 
the incursion. The kite was shaped like a great 
hawk ; and the moment it rose into the air the birds 
began to cower and seek protection and then to 
disappear. So long as that kite was flying overhead 
the birds lay low. The crop was saved. Accord- 
ingly Caswall had his men construct an immense 
kite, adhering as well as they could to the lines of a 
hawk. Then he and his men, with a sufficiency of 
string, began to fly it high overhead. The experi- 
ence of China was repeated. The moment the kite 
rose, the birds hid or sought shelter. The following 
morning, the kite still flying high, no bird was to be 
seen as far as the eye could reach from Castra Regis. 
But there followed in turn what proved even a 
worse evil. All the birds were cowed ; their sounds 
stopped. Neither song nor chirp was heard — 
silence seemed to have taken the place of the 
myriad voices of bird life. But that was not all. 
The silence spread to all animals. 

The fear and restraint which brooded amongst 
the denizens of the air began to affect all life. Not 
only did the birds cease song or chirp, but the lowing 
of the cattle ceased in the fields and the myriad 
sounds of life died away In the place of these 
things was only a soundless gloom, more dreadful, 
more disheartening, more soul-killing than any 

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102 The Lair of the White Worm 

concourse of sounds, no matter how full of fear and 
dread. Pious individuals and bodies put up con- 
stant prayers for relief from the intolerable solitude. 
After a little there were signs of universal depres- 
sion which who ran might read. One and all the 
faces of men and women seemed bereft of vitality, 
of interest, of thought, and, most of all, of hope. 
Men seemed to have lost the power of expression of 
their thoughts. The soundless air seemed to have 
the same effect as the universal darkness when men 
gnawed their tongues with pain. 

From this infliction of silence there was no relief. 
Everything was affected ; gloom was the pre- 
dominant note. Joy appeared to have passed away 
as a factor of life, and this creative impulse had 
nothing to take its place. That giant spot in 
high air was a plague of evil influence. It seemed 
like a new misanthropic belief which had fallen 
on human beings, carrying with it the negation 
of all hope. After a few days, men began to grow 
desperate ; their very words as well as their senses 
seemed to be in chains. Edgar Caswall again tor- 
tured his brain to find any antidote or palliative 
of this greater evil than before. He would gladly 
have destroyed the kite, or caused its flying to 
cease ; but he dared not. The instant it was 
pulled down, the birds rose up in even greater 
numbers ; all those who depended in any way 
on agriculture sent pitiful protests to Castra Regis. 

It was strange indeed what influence that kite 

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The Kite 


seemed to exercise. Even human beings were 
affected by it, as if both it and they were realities. 
As for the people at Mercy Farm, it was like 
a taste of actual death. Lilia felt it most. If 
she had been indeed a real dove, with a real kite 
hanging over her in the air, she could not have 
been more frightened or more affected by the 
fright this created. 

Of course, some of those already drawn into the 
vortex noticed the effect on individuals. Those 
who were interested took care to compare their 
information. They felt that it might be of service 
later on. Strangely enough, as it seemed to the 
others, the person who took the ghastly silence 
least to heart was the Christy Minstrel. By nature 
he was not a man sensitive to, or afflicted by, nerves. 
This alone would not have produced the seeming 
indifference, so they set their minds to discover 
the real cause. Adam came quickly to the con- 
clusion that there was for him some compensation 
that the others did not share ; and he soon believed 
that that compensation was in one form or another 
enjoyment of the sufferings of others. Thus, he 
had a never-failing source of amusement. The 
birds alone seemed as if they would satisfy even 
him. He took delight in the oppression by the 
predatory birds of the others of their kind. And 
then, even of them he took the occasion to add 
to his collection of beaks. Lady Arabella’s cold 
nature rendered her immune to anything in the 

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104 The Lair of the White Worm 

way of pain or trouble to or of others. And 
Edgar Caswall was far too haughty a person, and 
too stem of nature, to concern himself about even 
poor or helpless people, much less the lower order 
of mere animals. Mr Watford, Mr Salton, and Sir 
Nathaniel were all concerned in the issue, partly 
from kindness of heart — for none of them could see 
suffering, even of wild birds, unmoved — and partly 
on account of their property, which had to be 
protected, or ruin would stare them in the face 
before long. Lilia suffered acutely. As time went 
on, her face became pinched, and her eyes dull 
with watching and crying. Mimi suffered too on 
account of her cousin’s suffering. But as she 
could do nothing, she resolutely made up her mind 
to self-restraint and patience. The inhabitants of 
the district around took the matter with indiffer- 
ence. They had been freed from the noises, and 
the silence did not trouble them. It is often so ; 
people put a different and more lofty name on 
their own purposes. For instance, these people 
probably considered their own view founded on 
common weal, whereas it was merely indifference 
founded on selfishness. 

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After a couple of weeks had passed, the kite 
seemed to give to Edgar Caswall a new zest for life. 
It appeared to have a satisfying influence on him. 
He was never tired of looking at its movements. 
He had a comfortable armchair put out on the 
tower, wherein he sat sometimes all day long, 
watching as though the kite was a new toy and 
he a child lately come into possession of it. He 
did not seem to have lost interest in Lilia, for he 
still paid an occasional visit at Mercy Farm. 

Indeed, his feeling towards her, whatever it had 
been at first, had now so far changed that it had 
become a distinct affection of a purely animal 
kind. In the change of the kind of affection, the 
peculiarly impersonal, philosophic, almost platonic, 
had shed all the finer qualities that had belonged 
to it. Indeed, it seemed as though the man’s 
nature had become corrupted, and that all the 
baser and more selfish and more reckless qualities 
had become more conspicuous. There was not so 
much sternness apparent in his nature, because 
there was less self-restraint. Determination had 


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io6 The Lair of the White Worm 

become indifference. Sensitiveness, such as had 
been, became callousness. Altogether, there did 
not seem to be in his nature the same singleness of 
purpose, either in kind or degree. Strangely, as 
he unconsciously yielded to this demoralising 
process, he seemed to be achieving a new likeness 
to Oolanga. Sometimes as Adam— ever on the 
watch — noticed the growing change, he began to 
wonder whether the body was answering to the 
mind or the mind to the body. Accordingly, it 
was a never-ending thought to him which momen- 
tum — the physical or the moral — was antecedent. 
The thing which puzzled him most was, that the 
forbidding qualities in the African, which had at 
first evoked his attention and his disgust, re- 
mained the same. Had it been that the two men 
had been affected, one changing with the other by 
slow degrees — a sort of moral metabolism, — he 
could have better and more easily understood it. 
Transmutation of different bodies is, in a way, more 
understandable than changes in one body that 
have no equivalent equipoise in the other. The 
idea was recurrent to him that perhaps when a 
nature has reached its lowest point of decadence 
it loses the faculty of change of any kind. How- 
ever it was, the fact remained. Oolanga preserved 
all his original brutal decadence, while Caswall 
slowly deteriorated without any hint of resilience. 

The visible change in Edgar was that he grew 
morbid, sad, silent ; the neighbours thought he was 

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mad. He became absorbed in the kite, and 
watched it not only by day, but often all night long. 
It became an obsession to him. 

Adam kept his eyes and ears open and his mouth 
shut. He felt that he was learning. And, indeed, 
he was not mistaken when he acted as if silence was 
a virtue. He took a certain amount of interest — 
pleasure would be too smooth a word — in the 
generally expressed opinions of the neighbours of 
Castra Regis. It was commonly held regarding 
Caswall that he was mad. He took a personal 
interest in the keeping of the great kite flying. 
He had a vast coil of string efficient for the purpose, 
which worked on a roller fixed on the parapet of 
the tower. There was a winch for the pulling in 
of the slack of the string ; the outgoing line was 
controlled by a racket. There was invariably one 
man at least, day and night, on the tower to attend 
to it. At such an elevation there was always a 
strong wind, and at times the kite rose to an 
enormous height, as well as travelling for great 
distances laterally. In fact, the kite became, in a 
short time, one of the curiosities of Castra Regis 
and all around it. Edgar began to attribute to 
it, in his own mind, almost human qualities. It 
became to him a separate entity, with a mind and 
a soul of its own. Being idle-handed all day, he 
began to apply t6 what he considered the service 
of the kite some of his spare time, and found a 
new pleasure — a new object in life — in the old 

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io8 The Lair of the White Worm 

schoolboy gam© of sending up “ runners ” to the 
kite. The way this is done is to get round pieces 
of paper so cut that there is a hole in the centre 
through which the string of the kite passes. The 
natural action of the wind-pressure takes the paper 
thus cut along the string, and so up to the kite 
itself, no matter how high or how far it may have 
gone. In the early days of this amusement Edgar 
Caswall spent hours. Hundreds of such messengers 
flew along the string, until soon he bethought him 
of writing messages on these papers so that he 
could make known his ideas to the kite. It may 
be that his brain gave way under the opportunities 
given by his foregone illusion of the entity of the 
toy and its power of separate thought. From 
sending messages he came to making direct speech 
to the kite — without, however, ceasing to send the 
runners. Doubtless, the height of the tower, 
seated as it was on the hill-top, the rushing of the 
ceaseless wind, the hypnotic effect of the lofty 
altitude of the speck in the sky at which he gazed, 
and the rushing of the paper messengers up the 
string till sight of them was lost in distance, all 
helped to further affect his brain, undoubtedly 
giving way under the strain of a concatenation of 
beliefs and circumstances which were at once 
stimulating to the imagination, occupative of his 
mind, and absorbing. 

The next step of intellectual decline was to bring 
to bear on the main idea of the conscious identity 

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Mesmer’s Chest 


of the kite all sorts of subjects which had imagina- 
tive force or tendency of their own. He had, in 
Castra Regis, a large collection of curious and 
interesting things formed in the past by his fore- 
bears, of similar likes to his own. There were all 
sorts of strange anthropological specimens, both 
old and new, which had been collected through 
various travels in strange places : ancient Egyptian 
relics from tombs, and mummies ; curios from 
Australia, New Zealand, and the South Seas ; 
idols and images — from Tartar ikons to ancient 
Egyptian, Persian, and Indian objects of worship ; 
objects of death and torture of American Indians ; 
and, above all, a vast collection of lethal weapons 
of every kind and from every place — Chinese 
“ high pinders,” double knives, Afghan double- 
edged scimitars made to cut a body in two, heavy 
knives from all the Eastern countries, ghost 
daggers from Thibet, the terrible kukri of the 
Ghourka and other hill tribes of India, assassins’ 
weapons from Italy and Spain, even the knife 
which was formerly carried by the slave-drivers of 
the Mississippi region. Death and pain of every 
kind were fully represented in that gruesome 
collection. That it had a fascination for Oolanga 
goes without saying. He was never tired of 
visiting the museum in the tower, and spent end- 
less hours in inspecting the exhibits, till he was 
thoroughly familiar with every detail of all of 
them. He asked permission to clean and polish 

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no The Lair of the White Worm 

and sharpen them — a favour which was readily 
granted. In addition to the above objects, there 
were many things of a kind to awaken human 
fear. Stuffed serpents of the most objectionable 
and horrid kind; giant insects from the tropics, 
fearsome in every detail; fishes and crustaceans 
covered with weird spikes ; dried octopuses of great 
size. Other things, too, there were not less deadly 
though seemingly innocuous — dried fungi, the 
touch of which was death and whose poison was 
carried on the air ; also traps intended for birds, 
beast, fishes, reptiles, and insects ; machines which 
could produce pain of any kind and degree, and the 
only mercy of which was the power of producing 
speedy death. Caswall, who had never seen any 
of these things, except those which he had collected 
himself, found a constant amusement and interest 
in them. He studied them, their uses, their 
mechanism — where there was such, — and their 
places of origin, until he had an ample and real 
knowledge of all belonging to them. Many were 
secret and intricate, but he never rested till he found 
out all the secrets. When once he had become 
interested in strange objects and the way to use 
them, he began to explore various likely places for 
similar finds. He began to inquire of his household 
where strange lumber was kept. Several of the men 
spoke of old Simon Chester as one who knew every- 
thing in and about the house. Accordingly, he 
sent for the old man, who came at once. He was 

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Mesmer’s Chest 


very old, nearly ninety years of age, and very 
infirm. He had been bom in the Castle, and 
served its succession of masters — present or 
absent — ever since. When Edgar began to 
question him on the subject regarding which he 
had sent for him, old Simon exhibited much 
perturbation. In fact, he became so frightened 
that his master, fully believing that he was 
concealing something, ordered him to tell at once 
what remained unseen, and where such was hidden 
away. Face to face with discovery of his secret, 
the old man, in a pitiable state of concern, 
spoke out even more fully than Mr Caswall had 
expected : 

“ Indeed, indeed, sir, everything is here in the 
tower that has ever been imported or put away 
in my time — except — except ” — here he began 
to shake and tremble — “ except the chest which 
Mr Edgar — he who was Mr Edgar when I first 
took service — brought back from France, after he 
had been with Dr Mesmer. The trunk has been 
kept in my room for safety ; but I shall send it 
down here now.” 

“ What is in it ? ” asked Edgar sharply. 

“ That I do not know. Moreover, it is a 
peculiar trunk, without any visible means of 
opening it.” 

“ Is there no lock ? ” 

“ I suppose so, sir ; but I do not know. There 
is no keyhole.” 

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1 12 The Lair of the White Worm 

“ Send it here ; and then come to me your- 

The trunk, a heavy one with steel bands round 
it, but no lock or keyhole, was carried in by four 
men. Shortly afterwards old Simon attended his 
master. When he came into the room, Mr 
Caswall himself went and closed the door; then 
he asked : 

“ How do you open it ? ” 

“ I do not know, sir.” 

“ Do you mean to say you never opened 
it ? ” 

With considerable and pathetic dignity, the old 
man answered : 

“ Most certainly I do say so, your honour. How 
could I ? It was entrusted to me with the other 
things by my master. To open it would have 
been a breach of trust.” 

Caswall sneered as he said : 

“ Quite remarkable ! Leave it with me. Close 
the door behind you. Stay — did no one ever tell 
you about it — say anything regarding it — make any 
remark ? ” 

Old Simon turned pale, and put his trembling 
hands together as though imploring : 

“ Oh, sir, I entreat you not to touch it. That 
probably contains secrets which Dr Mesmer told 
my master. Told them to his ruin ! ” 

“ How do you mean ? What ruin ? ” 

“ Sir, he it was who, men said, sold his soul to 

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Mesmer’s Chest 1 1 3 

the Evil One ; I had thought that that time and 
the evil of it had all passed away.” 

“ That will do. Go away ; but remain in your 
own room, or within call. I may want you.” 

The old man bowed deeply and went out trem- 
bling, but without speaking a word. 



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Left alone-gin the turret-room, Edgar Caswall 
carefully locked the door and hung a handkerchief 
over the keyhole. Next, he inspected the windows, 
and saw that they were not overlooked from any 
angle of the main building. Then he carefully 
examined the trunk, going over it with a magnifying 
glass. He found it intact : the steel bands were 
flawless ; the whole trunk was compact into unity. 
After sitting opposite to it for some time, and the 
shades of evening beginning to melt into darkness, 
he gave up the task and took himself to his bedroom, 
after locking the door of the turret-room behind 
him and taking away the key. 

He woke in the morning at daylight, and resumed 
his patient but unavailing study of the metal trunk. 
This he continued during the whole day with the 
same result — humiliating disappointment which 
overwrought his nerves and made his head ache. 
The result of the long strain was seen later in the 
afternoon, when he sat locked within the turret- 
room before the still baffling trunk, distrait, listless 
and yet agitated, sunk in a settled gloom. As the 


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The Chest Opened 115 

dusk was falling he told the steward to send him 
four men, strong ones. These he told to take the 
trunk to his bedroom. In that room he then sat 
on into the night, without pausing even to take 
any food. His mind was in a whirl, a fever of 
excitement. The result was that when late in the 
night he locked himself in his room his brain was 
full of odd fancies ; he was on the high road to 
mental disturbance. He lay down on his bed in the 
dark, still brooding over the mystery of the closed 

Gradually he yielded to the influences of silence 
and darkness. After lying there quietly for some 
time his mind became active again. But this time 
there were round him no disturbing influences ; 
his brain was active and able to work freely and 
to deal with memory. A thousand forgotten — or 
only half-known — incidents, fragments of conversa- 
tions or theories long ago guessed at and long 
forgotten, crowded in on his mind. He seemed to 
hear again around him the legions of whirring 
wings to which he had been so lately accustomed. 
Even to himself he knew that that was an effort 
of imagination founded on imperfect memory. 
But he was content that imagination should work, 
for out of it might come some solution of the mystery 
which surrounded him. And in this frame of mind, 
sleep made another and more successful essay. 
This time he enjoyed peaceful slumber, restful alike 
to his wearied body and his overwrought brain. 

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n6 The Lair of the White Worm 

In his sleep in the darkness he arose, and, as if 
in obedience to some influence beyond and greater 
than himself, lifted the great trunk and set it on a 
strong table at one side of the room, from which he 
had previously removed a quantity of books. To 
do this, he had to use an amount of strength which 
was, he knew, far beyond him in his normal state. 
As it was, it seemed easy enough ; everything 
yielded before his touch. Then he became conscious 
that somehow — how, he never could remember — 
the chest was open. Again another wonder. He 
unlocked his door, and, taking the chest on his 
shoulder, carried it up to the turret-room, the door 
of which also he unlocked. Even at the time he 
was amazed at his own strength, and wondered 
unavailingly whence it had come. His mind, lost 
in conjecture, was too far off to realise more immedi- 
ate things. He knew that the chest was enormously 
heavy. He seemed, in a sort of vision which lit 
up the absolute blackness around, to see the four 
sturdy servant men staggering under its great 
weight. He locked himself again in the turret-room 
and laid the opened chest on a table, and in the 
darkness began to carefully unpack it, laying out 
the contents, which were mainly of metal and 
glass — great pieces in strange forms, — on another 
table. He was conscious of being still asleep, and 
of acting rather in obedience to some unseen and 
unknown command than in accordance with 
any reasonable plan to be followed by results 

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The Chest Opened 117 

which he understood and was aiming at. This 
phase completed, he proceeded to arrange in order 
the component parts of some large instruments 
formed mostly of glass. His fingers seemed to 
have acquired a new and exquisite subtlety and 
even a volition of their own. Then he brought 
some force to bear — how or where, he knew not, — 
and soon the room was filled with the whirr of 
machinery moving at great speed. Through the 
darkness, in its vicinity, came irregularly quick 
intermittent flashes of dazzling light. All else was 
still. Then weariness of brain came upon him ; 
his head sank down on his breast, and little by 
little everything became wrapped in gloom. 

He awoke in the early morning in his bedroom, 
and looked around him, now clear-headed, in amaze- 
ment. In its usual place on the strong table stood 
the great steel-hooped chest without lock or key. 
But it was now locked. He arose quietly and stole 
to the turret-room. There everything was as it 
had been on the previous evening. He looked 
out of the window where high in air flew, as usual, 
the giant kite. He unlocked the wicket gate of 
the turret stair and went out on the roof. Close 
to him was the great coil of string on its reel. It 
was humming in the morning breeze, and when he 
touched the string it sent a quick thrill through 
hand and arm. There was no sign anywhere that 
there had been any disturbance or displacement of 
anything during the night. 


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n8 The Lair of the White Worm 

Utterly bewildered, he sat down in his room to 
think. Now for the first time he /eft that he was 
asleep and dreaming. Presently he fell asleep 
again, and slept for a long time. He awoke hungry 
and made a hearty meal. Then towards evening, 
having locked himself in, he fell asleep again. When 
he awoke he was in darkness, and was quite at sea 
as to his whereabouts. He began feeling about 
the dark room, and was recalled to the consequences 
of his position by the breaking of a large piece of 
glass. This he, having obtained a light, discovered 
to be a glass wheel, part of an elaborate piece of 
mechanism which he must have in his sleep taken 
from the chest, which was opened. He had once 
again opened it whilst asleep, but he had no sort 
of recollection of the circumstances. He came to 
the conclusion that there had been some sort of 
dual action of his mind which might lead to some 
catastrophe or some discovery of his secret plans ; 
so he resolved to forgo for a while the pleasure of 
making discoveries regarding the chest. To this 
end, he applied himself to quite another matter — 
an investigation of the other treasures and rare 
objects in his collections. He went amongst them 
in simple, idle curiosity, his main object being to 
discover some strange item which he might use for 
experiment with the kite. He had already resolved 
to try some runners other than those made of paper. 
He had a vague idea that with such a force as the 
great kite straining at its leash, this might be used 

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The Chest Opened 119 

to lift to the altitude of the kite itself heavier articles. 
His first experiment with articles of little but in- 
creasing weight was eminently successful. So he 
added by degrees more and more weight, until he 
found out that the lifting power of the kite was 
considerable. He then determined to take a step 
still further, and to use for sending to the kite some 
of the articles which lay in the steel-hooped chest. 
The last time he had opened it in sleep it had not 
been shut again, so he had inserted a wedge so that 
he could open it at will. He made examination of 
the contents, but came to the conclusion that the 
glass objects were unsuitable. They were too light 
for testing weight, and they were so frail as to be 
dangerous to send to such a height. So he looked 
around for something more solid with which to 
experiment. His eye caught sight of an object 
which at once attracted him. This was a small 
copy of one of the ancient Egyptian gods — that of 
Bes, who represented the destructive power of 
nature. It was so bizarre and mysterious as to 
commend itself to his humour. In lifting it from 
the cabinet, he was struck by its great weight in 
proportion to its size. He made accurate examina- 
tion of it by the aid of some philosophical instru- 
ments, and came to the conclusion that it was 
carven from a lump of lodestone. He remembered 
that he had read somewhere of an ancient Egyptian 
god cut from a similar substance, and, thinking it 
over, he came to the conclusion that he must have 

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120 The Lair of the White Worm 

read it in Sir Thomas Brown’s Popular Errors , a 
book of the seventeenth century. He got the book 
from the library, and looked out the passage : 

“ A great example we have from the observation 
of our learned friend Mr Graves, in an ^Egyptian 
idol cut out of Loadstone and found among the 
Mummies ; which still retains its attraction, 
though probably taken out of the mine about two 
thousand years ago.” — Book II., Chap. VII. 

The strangeness of the figure, and its being so 
close akin to his own nature, attracted him. He 
made from thin wood a large circular runner and 
in front of it placed the weighty god, and sent it 
up to the flying kite along the throbbing string. 

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Dubing the last days Lady Arabella had been get- 
ting exceedingly impatient. Her debts, always 
pressing, were growing to an embarrassing amount. 
The only hope she had of comfort in life was a 
good marriage ; but the good marriage on which 
she had fixed her eye did not seem to move quickly 
enough — indeed, it did not seem to move at all — 
in the right direction. Edgar Caswall was not an 
ardent wooer. From the very first he seemed 
difficile , but now he had been keeping to his own 
room ever since his struggle with Mimi Watford. 
On that occasion she had shown him in an un- 
mistakable way what her feelings were ; indeed, 
she had made it known to him, in a more overt way 
than pride should allow, that she wished to help and 
support him. The moment when she had gone 
across the room to stand beside him in his mesmeric 
struggle, had been the very limit of her voluntary 
action. It was quite bitter enough, she felt, that 
he did not come to her, but now that she had made 
that advance, she felt that any withdrawal on his 
part would, to a woman of her class, be nothing less 


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122 The Lair of the White Worm 

than a flaming insult. Had she not classed herself 
with his nigger servant, an unreformed savage ? 
Had she not shown her preference for him at the 
festival of his home-coming ? Had she not . . . 
Lady Arabella was cold-blooded, and she was pre- 
pared to go through all that might be necessary 
of indifference and even insult to become chatelaine 
of Castra Regis. In the meantime, she would show 
no hurry — she would wait. She would even, in an 
unostentatious way, come to him again. She knew 
him now, and could make a keen guess at his 
desires with regard to Lilia Watford. With that 
secret in her possession, she could bring pressure 
to bear on him which would make it no easy matter 
to evade her. The great difficulty she had was how 
to get near him. He was shut up within his Castle, 
and guarded by a defence of convention which she 
could not pass without danger of ill repute to herself. 
Over this question she thought and thought for 
days and nights. At last she thought she saw a 
way of getting at him. She would go to him 
openly at Castra Regis. Her individual rank and 
position would make such a thing possible if carefully 
done. She could explain matters afterwards if 
necessary. Then when they were alone — as she 
would manage — she would use her arts and her 
experience to make him commit himself. After all, 
he was only a man, with a man’s dislike of difficult 
or awkward situations. She felt quite sufficient 
confidence in her own womanhood to carry her 

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Oolanga’s Hallucinations 123 

through any difficulty which might arise. From 
Diana’s Grove she heard each day the luncheon- 
gong from Castra Regis sound, and knew the hour 
when the servants would be in the back of the house. 
She would enter the house at that hour, and, 
pretending that she could not make anyone hear 
her, would seek him in his own rooms. The tower 
was, she knew, away from all the usual sounds of 
the house, and moreover she knew that the servants 
had strict orders not to interrupt him when he was 
in the turret chamber. She had found out, partly 
by the aid of an opera-glass and partly by judicious 
questioning, that several times lately a heavy 
chest had been carried to and from his room, and 
that it rested in the room each night. She was, 
therefore, confident that he had some important 
work on hand which would keep him busy for long 
spells. And so she was satisfied that all was going 
well with her — that her designs were ripening. 

Synchronously, another member of the household 
at Castra Regis had got ideas which he thought 
were working to fruition. A man in the position 
of a servant has plenty of opportunity of watching 
his betters and forming opinions regarding them. 
Oolanga, now living at the Castle, was in his way 
a clever, unscrupulous man, and he felt that with 
things moving round him in this great household 
there should be opportunities of self-advancement. 
Being unscrupulous and stealthy — and a savage — 
he looked to dishonest means. He saw plainly 

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124 The Lair of the White Worm 

enough that Lady Arabella was making a dead 
set at his master, and he was watchful of even the 
slightest sign of anything which might materialise 
this knowledge. Like the other men in the house, 
he knew of the carrying to and fro of the great 
chest, and had got it into his head that the care 
exercised in its portage indicated that it was full 
of great treasure. He was for ever lurking around 
the turret-rooms on the chance of making some 
useful discovery. But he was as cautious as he was 
stealthy, and took care that no one else watched 
him. It was thus that he became aware of Lady 
Arabella’s venture into the house, as she thought, 
unseen. He took more care than ever, since he 
was watching another, that the positions were not 
reversed. More than ever he kept his eyes and 
ears open and his mouth shut. Seeing Lady 
Arabella gliding up the stairs towards his master’s 
room, he took it for granted that she was there for 
no good, and doubled his watching intentness and 
caution. She waited patiently, hidden in his room, 
till Caswall returned upstairs after his lunch. She 
took care not to frighteiT'or startle him in any way. 
As, she did not know that anyone was watching 
and listening, her movements were merely a part 
of caution. She knew that sudden surprise occa- 
sions sudden sound, and that by this, in turn, others 
who were listeners would almost of necessity betray 
themselves. Oolanga was disappointed, but he 
dared not exhibit any feeling on the subject lest 

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Oolanga’s Hallucinations 125 

it should betray that he was hiding. Therefore 
he slunk downstairs again noiselessly, and waited 
for a more favourable opportunity of furthering 
his plans. It must be borne in mind that he thought 
that the heavy trunk was full of valuables, and that 
he believed that Lady Arabella had come to try 
to steal it. His purpose of using for his own 
advantage the combination of these two ideas 
was seen later in the day. When, after some time, 
Lady Arabella had given up the idea of seeing 
Caswall that afternoon, she moved quietly out of 
the Castle, taking care not to be noticed either 
within the house or outside it. Oolanga secretly 
followed her. He was an expert at this game, 
and succeeded admirably on this occasion. He 
watched her enter the private gate of Diana’s 
Grove and then, taking a roundabout course and 
keeping altogether out of her sight, by following 
her at last overtook her in a thick part of the Grove 
where no one could see the meeting. Lady Arabella 
was at the moment much surprised. She had not 
seen him for several days, and had almost forgotten 
his existence. Oolanga would have been surprised 
had he known and been capable of understanding 
the real value placed on him, his beauty, his 
worthiness, by other persons, and compared it with 
the value in these matters in which he held himself. 
But in some cases, if ignorance be bliss, bliss has 
a dynamic quality which later leads to destruction. 
Doubtless Oolanga had his dreams like other men. 

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126 The Lair of the White Worm 

In such cases he doubtless saw himself— or would 
have done had he had the knowledge with which 
to make the comparison — as a young sun-god — 
colour not stated — as beautiful as the eye of dusky 
or even white womanhood had ever dwelt upon. 
He would have been filled with all noble and 
captivating qualities regarded as such in West 
Africa. Women would have loved him, and would 
have told him so in the overt and fervid manner 
usual in affairs of the alleged heart in the shadowy 
depths of the forest of the Gold Coast. After all, 
etiquette is a valuable factor in the higher circles of 
even Africa in reducing chaos to social order and 
in avoiding mistakes properly ending in lethal 
violence. Had he known of such an educational 
influence, the ambitious Oolanga might have 
regretted its absence from his curriculum. But 
as it was, intent on his own ends, he went on in 
blind ignorance of offence. He came close behind 
Lady Arabella, and in a hushed voice suitable to 
the importance of his task, and in deference to the 
respect he had for her and the place, began to unfold 
the story of his love. Lady Arabella was not usually 
a humorous person, but no man or woman bora 
with the usual risible faculties of the white race 
could have checked the laughter which rose spon- 
taneously to her lips. The circumstances were 
too grotesque, the contrast too violent, for even 
subdued mirth. The man a debased specimen of 
one of the most debased races of the earth, and 

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Oolanga’s Hallucinations 127 

of an ugliness which was simply devilish ; the 
woman of high degree, beautiful, accomplished. 
She thought that her first moment’s consideration 
of the outrage — it was nothing less in her eyes — had 
given her the full material for thought. But every 
instant after threw new and varied lights on the 
affront. Her indignation was too great for passion : 
only irony or satire would meet the situation. And 
so her temper was able to stand the test. Calmed 
by a few moments of irony, she found voice. Her 
cold, cruel nature helped, and she did not shrink 
to subject even the poor ignorant savage to the 
merciless fire-lash of her scorn. Oolanga was 
dimly conscious, at most, that he was being flouted 
in a way he least understood ; but his anger was 
no less keen because of the measure of his ignorance. 
So he gave way to it as does a tortured beast. He 
ground his great teeth together, he raved, he stamped, 
he swore in barbarous tongues and with barbarous 
imagery. Even Lady Arabella felt that it was 
well she was within reach of help, or he might have 
offered her brutal violence — even have killed 

“ Am I to understand,” she said with cold disdain, 
so much more effective to wound than hot passion, 
“ that you are offering me your love ? Your — 
love ? ” 

For reply he nodded his head. The scorn of her 
voice in a sort of baleful hiss sounded — and felt — 
like the lash of a whip. 

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128 The Lair of the White Worm 

Then she continued, her passion rising as she 
spoke : 

“ And you dared ! you — a savage — a slave — 
the basest thing in the world of vermin ! Take 
care ! I don’t value your worthless life more 
than I do that of a rat or spider. Don’t let 
me ever see your hideous face here again, or 
I shall rid the earth of you. Have you any- 
thing to say for yourself why I should not kill 
you ? ” 

As she was speaking, she had taken out her 
revolver and was pointing it at him. In the 
immediate presence of death his impudence 
forsook him, and he made a weak effort to 
justify himself. His speech was short, consist- 
ing of single words. To Lady Arabella it sounded 
mere gibberish, but it was in his own dialect, 
and meant love, marriage, wife. From the in- 
tonation of the words, she guessed, with her 
woman’s quick intuition, at their meaning ; 
but she quite failed to follow when, becoming 
more pressing, he continued to urge his suit 
in a mixture of the grossest animal passion and 
ridiculous threats. In the latter he said that 
he knew she had tried to steal his master’s 
treasure, and that he had caught her in the 
act. So if she would be his he would share the 
treasure with her, &nd they would live in luxury 
in the African forests. But if she refused, he 
would tell his master, who would flog and torture 

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Oolanga’s Hallucinations 129 

her and then give her to the police, who would kill 

Altogether it was a fine mixture of opposing 
base projects, just such as a savage like 
him might be expected to evolve out of his 


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The consequences of that meeting in the dusk of 
Diana’s Grove were acute and far-reaching, and 
not only to the two engaged in it. From Oolanga, 
this might have been expected by anyone who 
knew the character of the tropical African 
savage. To such, there are two passions that 
are inexhaustible and insatiable — vanity and 
that which they are pleased to call love. Oolanga 
left the Grove with an absorbing hatred in his 
heart. His lust and greed were afire, and 
his vanity had been wounded to the core. 
Lady Arabella’s icy nature was not so deeply 
stirred, though she too was in a seething pas- 
sion. More than ever was she set upon bring- 
ing Edgar Caswall to her feet. The obstacles 
she had encountered, the insults she had endured, 
were only as fuel to the purpose of revenge which 
consumed her. 

As she sought her own rooms in Diana’s Grove, 
she went over the whole subject again and again, 
always finding in the face of Lilia Watford as a 
key to a problem which puzzled her — the problem 


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Battle Renewed 


of a way to turn Caswall’s powers — his very exist- 
ence — to aid her purpose. 

When in her boudoir, she wrote a note, taking so 
much trouble over it that she wrote, destroyed, 
and rewrote, till her dainty waste-basket was half- 
full of tom sheets of notepaper. When quite 
satisfied, she copied out the last sheet afresh, and 
then carefully burned all the spoiled fragments. 
She put the copied note in an emblazoned envelope, 
and directed it to Edgar Caswall at Castra Regis. 
This she sent off by one of her grooms. The letter 
ran : 

“ Dear Mb Caswall, — I want to have a little 
chat with you on a subject in which I believe you 
are interested. Will you kindly call for me to-day 
after lunch — say at three or four o’clock, and we 
can walk a little way together. Only as far as 
Mercy Farm, where I want to see Lilia and Mimi 
Watford. We can take a cup of tea at the Farm. 
Do not bring your African servant with you, as I 
am afraid his face frightens the girls. After all, he 
is not pretty, is he ? I have an idea you will be 
pleased with your visit this time. — Yours sincerely, 

“ Arabella March.” 

At half-past three Edgar Caswall called at 
Diana’s Grove. Lady Arabella met him on the 
roadway outside the gate. She wished to take 
the servants into confidence as little as possible. 

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132 The Lair of the White Worm 

She turned when she saw him coming, and walked 
beside him towards Mercy Farm, keeping step 
with him as they walked. When they got near 
Mercy, she turned and looked around her, expecting 
to see Oolanga or some sign of him. He was, how- 
ever, not visible. He had received from his master 
peremptory orders to keep out of sight — an order 
for which the African scored a new offence up 
against her. They found Lilia and Mimi at home 
and seemingly glad to see them, though both the 
girls were surprised at the visit coming so soon 
after the other. 

The proceedings were a simple repetition of the 
battle of souls of the former visit. On this occasion, 
however, Edgar Caswall seemed as if defeated, even 
before the strife began. This was the more strange, 
as on this occasion he had only the presence of 
Lady Arabella to support him — Oolanga being 
absent. Moreover, Mimi lacked on the present 
occasion the support of Adam Salton, which had 
been of such effective service before. This time 
the struggle for supremacy of will was longer and 
more determined. Caswall felt that if on this 
occasion he could not achieve supremacy, he had 
better give up the idea of trying to settle at Castra 
Regis, and so all his pride was enlisted against 
Mimi. When they had been waiting for the door 
to be opened, Lady Arabella, believing in a sudden 
attack, had said to him in a low, stem voice which 
somehow carried conviction : 

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“ This time you should win. She is, after all, 
only a woman. Show her no mercy. That is 
weakness. Fight her, beat her, trample on her, 
kill her if need be. She stands in your way, and I 
hate her. Never take your eyes off her. Never 
mind Lilia — she is afraid of you. You are already 
her master. The other, Mimi, will try to make 
you look at her cousin. Do not. There lies defeat. 
Let nothing — no, not death itself, no matter of 
whom — take your attention from Mimi, and you 
will win. If she is overcoming you, take my hand 
and hold it hard whilst you are looking into her 
eyes. If she is too strong for you, I shall interfere. 
I shall make a diversion, and under the shade of it 
you must retire unbeaten, even if not victorious. 
Hush ! silence ! they are coming. Be resolute, 
and still.” 

The two girls came to the door together. They 
had been fixing up an Aeolian harp which Adam 
had given Mimi. At the open door they listened 
for a few moments. Strange sounds were coming 
up over the Brow from the east. It was the 
rustling and crackling of the dry reeds and rushes 
from the low lands on the hither side of the Eastern 
Sea. The season had been an unusually dry one. 
Also the sound came from another cause: the 
strong east wind was helping forward enormous 
flocks of birds, most of them pigeons with white 
cowls. Not only were their wings whirring, but 
their cooing was plainly audible. From such a 

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134 The* Lair of the White Worm 

multitude of birds the mass of sound, individually 
small, assumed the volume of a storm. Surprised 
at the influx of birds, to which they had been 
strangers so long, they all looked towards Castra 
Regis, from whose high tower the great kite had 
been flying as usual. But even as they looked 
the string broke, and the great kite fell headlong 
in a series of sweeping dives. Its own weight and 
the aerial force opposed to it which caused it to 
rise, combined with the strong easterly breeze, 
had been too much for the great length of cord 
holding it. 

Somehow, the mishap to the kite gave new hope 
to Mimi. It was as though the side issues had 
been shorn away, so that the main struggle was 
thenceforth on simpler lines. She had a feeling in 
her heart as though some religious chord had been 
newly touched. It may, of course, have been that 
with the renewal of the bird voices a fresh courage, 
a fresh belief in the good issue of the struggle 
came too. It may also have been that the un- 
accustomed sounds of the seolian harp woke fresh 
trains of thought. In the misery of silence, from 
which they had all for so long suffered, any new 
train of thought was almost bound to be a boon. 
As the inrush of birds continued, their wings beating 
against the crackling rushes, Lady Arabella suddenly 
grew pale, and almost fainted. With strained ears 
she listened, and suddenly asked : 

“ What is that ? ” 

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Battle Renewed 


To Mimi, bred in Siam, the sound was strangely 
like an exaggeration of the sound produced by a 
snake-charmer. It was doubtless the union of the 
crackling from the rushes and the weird sound of 
the harp ; but no one asked explanation, and none 
offered it. 

Edgar Caswall was the first to recover from the 
interruption of the falling kite. After a few 
minutes he seemed to have quite recovered his 
sang froid, and was able to use his brains to the 
end which he had in view. Mimi too quickly 
recovered herself, but from a different cause. 
With her it was a deep religious conviction that 
the struggle round her was of the powers of Good 
and Evil, and that Good was triumphing. The 
very appearance of the snowy birds, with the cowls 
of Saint Columba, heightened the impression. With 
this conviction strong upon her, it is hardly to be 
wondered at that she continued the strange battle 
with fresh vigour. She seemed to tower over 
Caswall, and he to give back before her oncoming. 
Once again her vigorous passes drove him to the 
door. He was just going out backward when 
Lady Arabella, who had been gazing at him with 
fixed eyes, caught his hand and tried to stop his 
retrograde movement. She was, however, unable 
to stop him, and so holding hands they passed out 
together. As they did so, the strange music which 
had so alarmed Lady Arabella suddenly stopped. 
Instinctively they looked toward the tower of 

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136 The Lair of the White Worm 

Castra Regis, and saw that the workmen had re- 
fixed the kite, which had risen again and was 
beginning to float out to its former station. 

As they were looking, the door opened and 
Michael Watford came into the room. By that 
time all had recovered their self-possession, and 
there was nothing out of the common to attract 
his attention. As he came in, seeing inquiring 
looks all around him, he said : 

“ A telegram has come from the Agricultural 
Department. The new influx of birds is only the 
annual migration of pigeons from Africa. They 
say it will soon be over.” 

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The second victory of Mimi Watford made Edgar 
Caswall more moody than ever. He felt thrown 
back on himself, and this, superadded to his absorb- 
ing interest in the hope of a victory of his will, was 
now a deep and settled purpose of revenge. The 
chief object of his animosity was, of course, Mimi, 
whose will had overcome his, but it was obscured 
in greater or lesser degree by all who had opposed 
him. Lilia was next to Mimi in his hate— Lilia, 
the harmless, tender-hearted, sweet-natured girl, 
whose heart was so full of love for all things that 
in it was no room for the passions of ordinary life — 
whose nature resembled those doves of St Columba, 
whose colour she wore, whose appearance she 
reflected. Adam Salton came next — after a gap ; 
for against him Caswall had no direct animosity. 
He regarded him as an interference, a difficulty 
in the way to be got rid of or destroyed. The 
young Australian had been so discreet that the 
most he had against him was his knowledge of what 
had been. Caswall did not understand him, and 
to such a nature as his, ignorance was a cause of 


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138 The Lair of the White Worm 

alarm, of dread. He resumed his habit of watching 
the great kite straining at its cord, varying his 
vigils in this way by a further examination of the 
mysterious treasures of his house, especially Mesmer’s 
chest. He sat much on the roof of the tower, 
brooding over all his thwarted hopes. The vast 
extent of his possessions visible to him at that 
altitude might, one would have thought, have 
restored some of his complacency. But not so ; 
the very extent of his ownership thus perpetually 
brought before him made a fresh sense of grievance. 
How was it, he thought, that with so much at com- 
mand that others wished for, he could not achieve 
the dearest wishes of his heart ? It was the very 
cry of fallible humanity, which, because it yearns 
for something as yet unattainable, looks on disap- 
pointment to his wishes as a personal and malicious 
wrong done to himself by the powers that be. In 
this state of intellectual and moral depravity, he 
found a solace in the renewal of his experiments 
with the mechanical powers of the kite. This 
study helped to take him out of himself, to bring 
his esoteric woes in exoteric thought, even in 
his bafflements had an element of comfort, though 
a melancholy one. For quite a couple of weeks he 
did not see Lady Arabella, who was always on the 
watch for a chance of meeting him ; neither did he 
see the Watford girls, who studiously kept out 
of his way. Adam Salton simply marked time, 
keeping himself ready to deal with anything at his 

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The Shutting of the Door 139 

hands that might affect his friends. He heard 
from Mimi of the last battle of wills, but it 
had only one consequence of one kind. He got 
from Ross several more mongooses, including 
a second king-cobra-killer, which he generally 
carried with him in its box whenever he walked 

He constantly saw Sir Nathaniel de Salis, and the 
two talked over the things that happened, and they 
remembered all the things that had been before 
these ; so that the two who thought and remembered 
seemed also to know what would be before it too 

Mr Caswall’s experiments with the kite went on 
successfully. Each day he tried the lifting of 
greater weight, and it seemed almost as if the 
machine had a sentience of its own, which was 
increasing with the obstacles placed before it. All 
this time the kite hung in the sky at an enormous 
height. The wind was steadily from the north, 
so the trend of the kite was to the south. All day 
long, runners of increasing magnitude were sent up. 
These were only of paper or thin cardboard, or 
leather, or other flexible materials. The great 
height at which the kite hung made a great concave 
curve in the string, so that as the runners went up 
they made a flapping sound. If one laid a hand or 
a finger on the string, the sound answered to the 
flapping of the runner in a sort of hollow inter- 
mittent murmur. Edgar Caswall, who was now 

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140 The Lair of the White Worm 

wholly obsessed by the kite and all belong- 
ing to it, found a distinct resemblance between 
that intermittent rumble and the snake-charm- 
ing music produced by the pigeons flying 
through the dry reeds whilst the seolian harp 
was playing. 

One day he made a discovery in Mesmer’s chest 
which he thought he would utilise with regard to 
the runners. This was a great length of wire “ fine 
as human hair,” coiled round a finely made wheel, 
which ran to a wondrous distance freely, and as 
lightly. He tried this on runners, and found it 
worked admirably. Whether the runner was alone, 
or carried something much more weighty than 
itself, it worked equally well. Also it was strong 
enough and light enough to easily draw back the 
runner without undue strain. He tried this a 
good many times successfully, but it was now 
growing dusk and he found some difficulty in keeping 
the runner in sight. So he looked for something 
heavy enough to keep it still. He placed this, 
which happened to be the Egyptian image of Bes, 
on the fine wire whioh crossed the wooden ledge 
which protected it. Then the darkness growing, 
he went indoors and forgot all about it. He had 
a strange feeling of uneasiness that night — not 
sleeplessness, for he was consoious of being asleep. 
At daylight he rose, and as usual looked out for 
the kite. He did not see it in its usual position in 
the sky, so took a glass and looked all round the 

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The Shutting of the Door 14 1 

points of the compass. He was more than astonished 
when presently he saw the missing kite struggling 
as customary against the controlling string. But 
it had gone to the further side of the tower, and now 
hung and strained against the wind to the north. 
He thought it so strange that he determined to 
investigate the phenomenon, and to say nothing 
about it in the meantime. In his many travels, 
Edgar Caswall had been accustomed to use the 
sextant, and was now an expert in the matter. By 
the aid of this and other instruments of the kind, 
he was able to fix the exact position of the kite 
and the point over which it hung. He was actually 
startled to find exactly under it — so far as he could 
ascertain — was Diana’s Grove. He had an inclina- 
tion to take Lady Arabella into his confidence in the 
matter, but he thought better of it and wisely 
refrained. For some reason which he did not even 
try to explain to himself, he was glad of his silence, 
when on the following morning he found, on looking 
out, that the point over which the kite then hovered 
was Mercy Farm. When he had verified this with 
his instruments, he sat before the window of the 
tower, looking out and thinking. The new locality 
was more to his liking than the other ; but the why 
of it puzzled him, all the same. He spent the rest 
of the day in the turret-room, which he did not leave 
all day. It seemed to him that he was now drawn 
by forces which he could not control— of which, 
indeed, he had no knowledge — in directions which he 

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142 The Lair of the White Worm 

did not understand, and which were without his 
own volition. In sheer helpless inability to think 
the problem out satisfactorily, he called up a servant 
and told him to tell Oolanga that he wanted to see 
him at once in the turret-room. The answer came 
back that the African had not been seen since the 
previous evening. He was now so irritable that even 
this small thing upset him. As he was distrait 
and wanted to talk to somebody, he sent for Simon 
Chester, who came at once, breathless with hurrying 
and upset by the unexpected summons. Caswall 
made him sit down, and when the old man was in a 
less uneasy frame of mind, he again asked him if 
he had ever seen what was in Mesmer’s chest or 
heard it spoken of. Chester admitted that he had 
once in the time of “ the then Mr Edgar ” seen the 
chest open, which, knowing something of its history 
and guessing more, so upset him that he had fainted. 
When he recovered, the chest was closed. From 
that time the then Mr Edgar had never spoken 
about it again. 

When Caswall asked him to describe what he 
had seen when the chest was open, he got very 
agitated, and, despite all his efforts to remain calm, 
he suddenly went off into a dead faint. Caswall 
s umm oned servants, who applied the usual remedies. 
Still the old man did not recover. After the lapse 
of a considerable time, the doctor who had been 
summoned made his appearance. A glance was 
sufficient for him to make up his mind. Still, 

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The Shutting of the Door 143 

he knelt down by the old man, and made a careful 
examination. Then he rose to his feet, and in a 
hushed voice said : 

“ I grieve to say, sir, that he has passed 

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Thosb who had seen Edgar Caswall familiarly 
since his arrival, and had already estimated his 
cold-blooded nature at something of its true value, 
were surprised that he took so to heart the death 
of old Chester. The fact was that not one of them 
had guessed correctly at his character. Good, 
simple souls, they had estimated it by their own. 
They thought, and naturally enough, that the 
concern which he felt was that of a master for a 
faithful old servant of his family. They little 
thought that it was merely the selfish expression 
of his disappointment that he had lost the only 
remaining clue to an interesting piece of family 
history — one which was now and would be for 
ever wrapped in mystery. Caswall knew enough 
of the life of his ancestor in Paris to wish to know 
more fully and more thoroughly all that had been. 
The period covered by that ancestor’s life in Paris 
was one inviting every form of curiosity. The only 
one who seemed to believe in the sincerity of his 
sorrow was Lady Arabella, who had her own game 
to play, and who saw in the miller of sympathetic 


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On the Track 145 

friend a series of meetings with the man she wanted 
to get hold of. She made the first use of the oppor- 
tunity the day after old Chester’s death ; indeed, 
so soon as ever the news had filtered in through 
the back door of Diana’s Grove. At that meeting, 
she played her part so well that even Caswall’s cold 
nature was impressed. Oolanga was the only one 
who did not credit her with at least some sense of 
fine feeling in the matter. But this was only 
natural, for he was perhaps the only one who did 
not know what fine feeling meant. In emotional, 
as in other matters, Oolanga was distinctly a 
utilitarian, and as he could not understand any- 
one feeling grief except for his own suffering pain 
or for the loss of money, he could not understand 
anyone simulating such an emotion except for 
show intended to deceive. He thought that she 
had come to Castra Regis again for the opportunity 
of stealing something, and was determined that on 
this occasion the chance of pressing his advantage 
over her should not pass. He felt, therefore, that 
the occasion was one for extra carefulness in the 
watching of all that went on. Ever since he had 
come to the conclusion that Lady Arabella was 
trying to steal the treasure-chest, he suspected 
nearly everyone of the same design, and, as the 
night generally is friendly to thieves, he made it 
a point to watch all suspicious persons and places 
when night is merging into dawn and dawn into 
day. At that time, too, the active faculties of the 


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146 The Lair of the White Worm 

mind are not at their best. Sleep is a factor of 
carelessness to be counted on, and, as it affects 
both thief and guardian, may be doubly useful 
both to learn and to do. The dawn, therefore, 
generally found him on the watch ; and as this 
was the period also when Adam was engaged on 
his own researches regarding Lady Arabella, it 
was only natural that there should be some crossing 
of each other’s tracks. This is what did happen. 
Nature is a logician, and what does happen is 
generally what ought to happen if the chances are 
in its favour. Adam had gone for an early morning 
survey of the place in which he was interested, 
taking with him, as usual, the mongoose in its box. 
He arrived at the gate of Diana’s Grove just as 
Lady Arabella was preparing to set out for Castra 
Regis on what she considered her mission of com- 
fort. And she, seeing from her window Adam in 
a mysterious way going through the shadows of 
the trees round the gate, thought that he must be 
engaged on some purpose similar to her own. So, 
quickly making her toilet, she quietly left the 
house without arousing anybody, and, taking 
advantage of every shadow and substance which 
could hide her from him, followed him on his 
walk. Oolanga, the experienced tracker, followed 
her, but succeeded in hiding his movements better 
than she did. He saw that Adam had hung on 
his shoulder the mysterious box, which he took 
to contain something valuable. Seeing that Lady 

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On the Track 


Arabella was secretly following hi m , confirmed 
this idea. His mind — such as it was — was fixed 
on her trying to steal, and he credited her at once 
with making use of this new opportunity. In his 
walk, Adam went into the grounds of Castra Regis, 
and Oolanga saw her follow him, with great secrecy. 
He feared to go closer, as now on both sides of him 
were enemies who might make discovery. There- 
fore, when he ascertained that Lady Arabella was 
bound for the Castle, he devoted himself to follow- 
ing her with singleness of purpose. He therefore 
missed seeing that Adam branched off the track 
he was following and returned to the high road, 
and that she, seemingly not interested in his 
further movements, took her course to the Castle. 

That night Edgar Caswall had slept badly. The 
tragic occurrence of the day was on his mind, and 
he kept waking and thinking of it. At the early 
dawn he rose and, wrapping himself in a heavy 
dressing-gown, sat at the open window watching 
the kite and thinking of many things. From his 
room he could see all round the neighbourhood, 
and as the morning advanced, its revealing light 
showed him all the little happenings of the place. 
His life had not had much interest for him in the 
doings of other people, and he had no distinct idea 
of how many little things went to make up the 
sum of an ordinary person’s daily life. This bird’s- 
eye view of a community engaged in its ordinary 
avocations at even this early hour was something 

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148 The Lair of the White Worm 

new to him. He set himself to watch it as a new 
interest. His cold nature had no place for sym- 
pathy for lesser things than himself ; but this 
was a study to be followed just as he would have 
watched the movements of a colony of ants or bees 
or other creatures of little interest individually. 
He saw, as the light grew more searching, the be- 
ginnings of the day for humble people. He saw 
the movements which followed waking life. He 
even began to exercise his imagination in trying 
to understand the why and the wherefore of each 
individual movement. As soon as he was able to 
recognise individual houses as they emerged from 
the mass of darkness or obscurity, he became 
specially interested in all that went on around 
him. The two places that interested him most 
were Mercy Farm and Diana’s Grove. At first 
the movements were of a humble kind — those that 
belonged to domestic service or agricultural needs 
— the opening of doors and windows, the sweeping 
and brushing, and generally the restoration of 
habitual order. Then the farm servants made 
preparations for the comfort of the cattle and 
other animals ; the drawing of water, the carrying 
of food, the alterations of bedding, the removal 
of waste, and the thousand offices entailed by the 
needs of living things. To Caswall, self-absorbed, 
disdainful, selfish egotist, this bird’s-eye view was 
a new and interesting experience of the revolution 
of cosmic effort. He was so interested with this 

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Oolanga' s black face . . . peering out from a clump of evergreens 

[facing page 148, 

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On the Track 


new experience that the dim hours of the morning 
slipped by unnoticed. The day was in full flow 
when he bethought him of his surroundings. He 
could now distinguish things and people, even at 
a distance. He could see Lady Arabella, whose 
blinds had been drawn and windows opened, move 
about in her room, the white dress which she wore 
standing out against the darker furniture of her 
room. He saw that she was already dressed for 
out of doors. As he looked, he saw her suddenly 
rise and look out of the window, keeping herself 
carefully concealed behind the curtain, and, follow- 
ing the direction in which her face was turned, 
he saw Adam Salton, with a box slung on his 
shoulder, moving in the shadow of the clump of 
trees outside her gate. He noticed that she quickly 
left the room, and in another minute was following 
Salton down the road in the direction of Castra 
Regis, carefully avoiding observation as she went. 
Then he was surprised to see Oolanga’s black face 
and rolling white eyeballs peering out from a 
clump of evergreens in the avenue. He too was 

From his high window — whose height was alone 
a screen from the observation of others — he saw 
the chain of watchers move into his own grounds, 
and then presently break up, Adam Salton 
going one way, and Lady Arabella, followed by 
the nigger, another. Then Oolanga disappeared 
amongst the trees ; but Caswa^l could see that he 

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150 The Lair of the White Worm 

was still watching. Lady Arabella, after looking 
around her, slipped in by the open door, and he 
could, of course, see her no longer. 

Presently, however, he heard a light tap at his 
door — a tap so light that he only knew it was a 
tap at all when it was repeated. Then the door 
opened very, very slowly, and he could see the flash 
of Lady Arabella’s white dress through the opening. 

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Caswall was genuinely surprised when he saw 
Lady Arabella, though he need not have been 
surprised after what had already occurred in the 
same way. The look of surprise on his face was so 
much greater than Lady Arabella had expected — 
though she thought she was prepared to meet 
anything that might occur — that she stood still, 
open-eyed in sheer amazement. Cold-blooded as 
she was and ready for all social emergencies, she was 
nonplussed how to go on. She was plucky, how- 
ever, and began to speak at once, although she had 
not the slightest idea what she was going to say. 
Had she been told that she was beginning to propose 
to a man, she would have indignantly denied it. 

“ I came to offer you my very, very warm 
sympathy with the grief you have so lately 

There was a new surprise in his voice as he replied : 
“ My grief ? I am afraid I must be very dull ; 
but I really do not understand.” 

Already she felt at a disadvantage, and hesitated 
as she went on : 


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152 The Lair of the White Worm 

“ I mean about the old man who died so suddenly 
— your old . . . retainer/’ 

CaswalTs face relaxed something of its puzzled 
concentration : 

“ Oh, him ! I hope you don’t think he was any 
source of grief. Why, he was only a servant ; and 
he had overstayed his three-score and ten years by 
something like twenty years. He must have been 
ninety, if he was a day ! ” 

“ Still, as an old servant . . . ! ” 

Caswall’s words were not so cold as their inflection. 

“ I never interfere with servants. Besides, 
I never saw or heard of him. He was kept on here 
merely because he had been so long on the premises, 
or for some other idiotic reason. I suppose the 
steward thought it might make him unpopular if 
he were to be dismissed. All that is nonsense. 
There is no sentiment in business ; if he is a senti- 
mentalist, he has no right to be a steward of another 
man’s property ! ” 

Somehow this tone almost appalled her. How on 
earth was she to proceed on such a task as hers if 
this was the utmost geniality she could expect ? 
So she at once tried another tack — this time a 
personal one : 

" I am very sorry I disturbed you. I took a 
great liberty in the so doing. I am really not 
unconventional — and certainly no slave to conven- 
tion. Still there are limits. ... It is bad enough 
to intrude in this way, and I do not know what you 

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A Visit of Sympathy 153 

can say or think of the time selected for the 
intrusion.’ 1 

After all, Edgar Caswall was a gentleman by 
custom or habit, so he rose to the occasion : 

“ I can only say, Lady Arabella, that you are 
always welcome at any time when you may deign 
to honour my house with your presence.” 

She smiled at him sweetly as she said : 

“ Thank you so much. You do put one at ease. 
A breach of convention with you makes me glad 
rather than sorry. I feel that I can open my heart 
to you about anything.” 

Caswall smiled in his turn. 

“ Such consideration and understanding as yours 
are almost prohibitive of breach of convention.” 

“ Try me. If I stand the test it will be another 
link between us.” 

“ That, indeed, would be a privilege. Come, 
I will try you.” 

Forthwith she proceeded to tell him about 
Oolanga and his strange suspicions of her honesty. 
He laughed heartily and made her explain all the 
details. He laughed genuinely at her reading of 
Oolanga’s designs, which he did not even dignify 
with the sobriquet of insolence. His final comment 
was enlightening. 

“ Let me give you a word of advice : If you have 
the slightest fault to find with that infernal nigger, 
shoot him on sight. A swelled-headed nigger with 
a bee in his bonnet is one of the worst difficulties 

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154 The Lair of the White Worm 

in the world to deal with. So better make a clean 
job of it, and wipe him out at once ! ” 

“ But what about the law, Mr Caswall ? ” 

“ Oh, the law is all right. But even the law 
doesn’t concern itself much about dead niggers. 
A few more or less of them does not matter. To 
my mind it’s rather a relief ! ” 

“ I’m afraid of you,” was her only comment, 
made with a sweet smile and in a soft voice. 

“ All right,” he said, “ let us leave it at that. 
Anyhow, we shall be rid of one of them ! ” 

“ I don’t love niggers more than you do,” she 
said, “ but I suppose one mustn’t be too particular 
where that sort of cleaning up is concerned.” 

Then she changed in voice and manner, and asked 
genially : 

“ And now tell me, am I forgiven ? ” 

“ You are, dear lady — if there be anything to 

As he spoke, seeing that she had moved to go, 
he came to the door with her, and in the most 
natural way accompanied her downstairs. He 
passed through the hall door with her and down 
the avenue. As he went back to the house, she 
smiled to herself and took herself into her own 
confidence in a whisper : 

“ Well, that is all right. I don’t think the 
morning has been altogether thrown away.” 

And she walked slowly back to Diana’s Grove. 
When Adam Salton separated from Lady Arabella 

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A Visit of Sympathy 155 

he continued the walk which he had begun. He 
followed the line of the Brow, and refreshed his 
memory as to the various localities. He got home 
to Lesser Hill just as Sir Nathaniel was beginning 
breakfast. Mr Salton had gone to Walsall to keep 
an early appointment ; so he was all alone. When 
breakfast was over, he, seeing in Adam’s face that 
he had something to speak about, followed into the 
study and shut the door. 

When the two men had lighted their pipes, Sir 
Nathaniel began : 

“ Since we talked, I have remembered an interest- 
ing fact about Diana’s Grove that I intended to have 
mentioned earlier, only that something put it out 
of my head. It is about the house, not the Grove. 
There is, I have long understood, some strange 
mystery about that house. It may be of some 
interest, or it may be trivial, in such a tangled skein 
as we are trying to unravel.” 

“ I am listening. Please tell me all — all you know 
or suspect, and I shall try to form an opinion. To 
begin, then, of what sort is the mystery — physical, 
mental, moral, historical, scientific, occult ? Any 
kind of hint will help me.” 

“ Well, my dear boy, the fact is, I don’t know ! ” 
“ Don’t know, sir ? ” 

“ That is not so strange as it may appear. It 
may belong to any or all of these categories. 
Naturally, you are incredulous of such complete 
ignorance ’ ’ 

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156 The Lair of the White Worm 

“ Oh, sir, I would not doubt you.” 

“ No, of course not. But all the same, you may 
not be able to believe or understand. Of course 
I understand your reluctance to speak of a doubt. 
But that applies not to the fact, but to the manner 
of expressing it. Be quite assured. I fully accept 
your belief in my bona fides. But we have diffi- 
culties to encounter, barriers to pass ; so we must 
trust each other to speak the truth even if we do 
not understand it ourselves.” 

Adam was silent for a few moments, and then 
said, with his face brightening : 

“ I think, sir, the best way we can go on is to tell 
each other facts. Explanation may bring necessary 
doubt ; but we shall have something to go on ! ” 

“ Quite right. I shall try to tell you what I 
think; but I have not put my thoughts on the 
subject in sequence, and so you must forgive 
me if due order is not observed in my narration. 
I suppose you have seen the house at Diana’s 

“ With the outside of it ; but I have that in my 
mind’s eye, and I can fit into my memory whatever 
you may call my attention to.” 

“ Good ! Well, I shall just tell you, to begin with, 
what I know, and I may happen to know more of 
it than you do. 

“ The house is very old — probably the first house 
of some sort that stood there was in the time of the 
Romans. This was probably renewed — perhaps 

Digitized by LjOoq le 

A Visit of Sympathy 157 

several times at later periods. The house stands, or, 
rather, used to stand as it is when Mercia was a 
kingdom — I do not suppose that the basement was 
later than the Norman Conquest. Some years ago, 
when I was President of the Mercian Archaeological 
Society, I went all over it very carefully. This was 
before it was purchased by Captain March. The 
house had then been done up so as to be suitable 
to bring the bride to. The basement is very 
strange — almost as strong and as heavy as if it was 
intended to be a fortress. There are a whole series 
of rooms deep underground. One of them in 
particular struck me. The room itself is of consider- 
able size, but the masonry is more than massive. 
In the middle of the room is a sunk well, built 
up to floor level and evidently going to deep 
underground. There is no windlass or any trace 
of there ever having been any — no rope — no- 
thing. Now, we know that even the Romans 
had wells of immense depth from which the water 
was lifted by the ‘ old rag rope 9 ; that at Woodhull 
used to be nearly a thousand feet. Here, then, we 
have simply an enormously deep well-hole. The 
door of the room when I saw it was massive, and 
was fastened with a lock nearly two feet square. 
It was evidently intended for some kind of protec- 
tion to something or someone ; but no one in those 
days when I made the visit had ever heard of 
anyone having been allowed even to see the room. 
All this is d projpos of the suggestion of which I have 

Digitized by LjOoq le 

158 The Lair of the White Worm 

hinted that the well-hole was a way by which the 
White Worm (whatever it was) went and came. At 
that time I would have had search made, even 
excavation if necessary, at my own expense, but 
all suggestions were met with a prompt and explicit 
negative. So, of course, I took no further step in 
the matter. Then it died out of recollection — even 
of mine.” 

“ Do you remember, sir,” asked Adam, “ what 
was the appearance of the room where the well- 
hole was ? And was there furniture — in fact, 
any sort of thing in the room ? ” 

“ I do not remember. It was all very dark — 
so dark that it was impossible to distinguish any- 
thing. The only thing I do remember was a sort 
of green light — very clouded — very dim, which 
came up from the well. Not a fixed light, but 
intermittent and irregular. Quite unlike anything 
I had ever seen.” 

“ Do you remember how you got into that room — 
the well-room ? Was there a separate door from 
outside, or was there any interior room or passage 
which opened into it ? ” 

“ I think there must have been some room with 
a way into it. I remember going up some steep 
steps by which I came into the well-room. They 
must have been worn smooth by long use or some- 
thing of the kind, for I could hardly keep my feet as 
I went up. Once I stumbled and nearly fell into 
the well-hole. I was more careful after that.” 

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A Visit of Sympathy 159 

“ Was there anything strange about the place — 
any queer smell, for instance ? ” 

“ Queer smell ? — yes. Like bilge or a rank 

“ It was distinctly nauseating ; I remember that 
when I came out I felt that I had been just going 
to be physically sick. I shall try back on my visit 
and see if I can recall any more of what I saw or 

“ Then perhaps, sir, later in the day you will 
kindly tell me anything you may chance to 

“ I shall be delighted, Adam. If your uncle 
has not returned by then, I shall join you in the 
study after dinner, and we shall resume this interest- 
ing chat.” 

Digitized by 




When Adam, after leaving Lady Arabella, went 
on his own road outside Castra Regis, Oolanga 
followed him in secret. Adam had at first an idea, 
or rather a suspicion, that he was being followed, 
and looked around a good many times in the hope 
of making discovery of his pursuer. Not being 
successful in any of these attempts, he gradually 
gave up the idea, and accepted the alternative that 
he had been mistaken. He wondered what had 
become of the nigger, whom he had certainly seen 
at first, so kept a sharp look-out for him as he 
went on his way. As he passed through the little 
wood outside the gate of Diana’s Grove, he thought 
he saw the African’s face for an instant. He knew 
it must be him; otherwise, there must be a devil 
wandering loose somewhere in the neighbourhood. 
So he went deeper into the undergrowth, and 
followed along parallel to the avenue to the house. 
He was, in a way, glad that there was no workman 
or servant about, for he did not care that any of 
Lady Arabella’s people should find him wandering 
about her grounds at such an hour. Taking 


Digitized by 


The Mystery of “The Grove” 161 

advantage of the thickness of the trees, he came 
close to the house and skirted round it. He was 
repaid for his trouble, for on the far side of the 
house, close to where the rocky frontage of the 
cliff fell away, he saw Oolanga crouched behind 
the irregular trunk of a great oak. The man was 
so intent on watching someone, or something, that 
he did not guard against being himself watched. 
This suited Adam, for he could thus make scrutiny 
at will. The thick wood, though the trees were 
mostly of small girth, threw a heavy shadow, in 
addition to that made by the early sun being in 
the east, so that the steep declension, in front of 
which grew the tree behind which the African 
lurked, was almost in darkness. Adam drew as 
close as he could, and was amazed to see a patch 
of light on the ground before him ; when he 
realised what it was, he was determined more than 
ever to follow on his quest. The nigger had a 
dark lantern in his hand, and was throwing the 
light down the steep incline. The glare showed 
that the decline, which was in a sort of sunken 
way, emerged on a series of stone steps, which 
ended in a low-lying heavy iron door fixed against 
the side of the house. His mind was in a whirl. 
All the strange things he had heard from Sir 
Nathaniel, and all those, little and big, which he 
had himself noticed, crowded into his mind in a 
chaotic way, such as mark the intelligence con- 
veyed in a nightmare. Instinctively he took 


Digitized by LjOoq le 

1 62 The Lair of the White Worm 

refuge from the possibility of Oolanga seeing him 
behind a thick oak stem, and set himself down to 
watch what might occur. 

After a very short time it was apparent that the 
African was trying to find out what was behind 
the heavy door. There was no way of looking in, 
for the door fitted tight into the massive stone 
slabs. The only opportunity for the entrance of 
light was through a small hole left in the building 
between the great stones above the door. This 
hole was much too high up to look through from 
the ground level. The nigger was so intent on 
his effort to see beyond this, that Adam found there 
was no necessity for his own careful concealment, 
which was a considerable help to him in his task. 
Oolanga, having tried standing tiptoe on the 
highest point near, and holding the lantern as 
high as he could, threw the light round the edges 
of the door to see if he could find anywhere a hole 
or a flaw in the metal through which he could 
obtain a glimpse. Foiled in this, he brought from 
the shrubbery a plank, which he leant against the 
top of the door and then climbed up with great 
dexterity. This did not bring him near enough to 
the window-hole to look in, or even to throw the 
light of the lantern through it, so he climbed 
down and carried the plank back to the place 
from which he had got it. Then he concealed 
himself near the iron door and waited, manifestly 
with the intent of remaining there till someone 

Digitized by LjOoq le 

The Mystery of “The Grove” 163 

oame near. Presently Lady Arabella, moving 
noiselessly through the shade, approached the 
door. When he saw her close enough to touch it, 
Oolanga stepped forward from his concealment, 
and said in a whisper, which through the gloom 
sounded like a hiss : 

“ I want to see you, missy — soon and 

Her lip curled in scorn as she answered : 

“ You see me now. What do you want ? What 
is it ? ” 

“ You know well, missy. I told you already.” 

She turned on him with her eyes blazing, so that 
the green tint in them shone like emeralds. 

“ Come, none of that. If there is anything 
sensible which you may wish to say to me, you 
can see me here, just where we are, at seven 

He made no reply in words, but, putting the 
backs of his hands together, bent lower and lower 
still till his forehead touched the earth. She 
stood stone-still, which seeing, he rose and went 
slowly away. Adam Salton, from his hiding-place, 
saw and wondered. In a few minutes he moved 
from his place and went away home to Lesser 
Hill, fully determined that seven o’clock would 
find him in some hidden place behind Diana’s 

When he got home he placed the box containing 
the mongoose in the gun-room. Not having any 

Digitized by LjOoq le 

164 The Lair of the White Worm 

immediate intention of making use of the animal, 
it passed quite out of his mind. 

At a little before seven Adam stole softly out of 
the house and took the back-way to the rear of 
Diana’s Grove. The place seemed silent and de- 
serted, so he took the opportunity of concealing 
himself near the spot whence he had seen Oolanga 
trying to investigate whatever was concealed 
behind the iron door. He was quite content when 
he found himself safely ensconced in his hiding- 
place. He waited, perfectly still, and at last saw 
a gleam of white passing soundlessly through the 
undergrowth. He was not surprised when he 
recognised the shape and colour of Lady Arabella’s 
dress. She came close and waited, with her face 
to the iron door. From some place of conceal- 
ment near at hand Oolanga appeared, and came 
close to her. Adam noticed with surprised amuse- 
ment that over his shoulder was his, Adam’s, box 
with the mongoose. Of course the African did 
not know that he was seen by anyone, least of 
all by the man whose property he had in possession. 
Silent-footed as he was, Lady Arabella heard him 
coming, and turned to meet him. It was some- 
what hard to see in the gloom, for, as usual, he was 
all in black, only his collar and cuffs showing white. 
The black of his face helped with that of his cloth- 
ing in eating up what faint light there was. Lady 
Arabella opened the conversation which ensued 
between the two : 

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The Mystery of “The Grove” 165 

“ I see you are here — what do you want ? To 
rob me, or murder me ? ” 

“ No, to lub you ! ” 

This, getting explicit so soon, frightened her a 
little, and she tried to change the tone : 

Is that a coffin you have with you ? If so, 

you are wasting your time. It would not hold 

„„ » 


When a nigger suspects he is being laughed at, 
all the ferocity of his nature comes to the front ; 
and as the man was naturally of the lowest kind, 
the usual was to be expected : 

“ Dis ain’t no coffin for nobody. Quite opposite. 
Die box is for you. Somefin you lub. Me give 
him to you ! ” 

Still anxious to keep off the subject of affection, 
on which she believed him to have become crazed, 
she made another effort to keep his mind elsewhere : 
“ Is this why you want to see me ? ” 

He nodded. 

She went on : “ Then come round to the other 
door. And be quiet. I have no particular desire 
to be seen so close to my own house in conversa- 
tion with a — a — a nigger like you ! ” 

She had chosen the word of dishonour deliber- 
ately. She wished to meet his passion with an- 
other kind. Such would, at all events, help to keep 
him quiet. In the deep gloom she could not see 
the anger which suffused his face. Bolling eye- 
balls and grinding teeth are, however, sufficient 

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1 66 The Lair of the White Worm 

indices of anger to be decipherable in the dark. 
She moved round the comer of the house to her 
right hand. Oolanga was following her, when she 
stopped him by raising her hand : 

“ No, not that door,” she said : “ that is not for 
niggers. The other door will do well enough for 
that ! ” 

There was such scorn in her voice — scorn carried 
to a positive quality with malignity added — that 
the African writhed. Suddenly he stopped as if 
turned into stone, and said in a voice, whose very 
quietude was dangerous : 

“ Gib me your gun.” 

Unthinkingly, she pulled out the revolver, which 
was in her breast, and handed it to him : 

“ Do you want to kill me ? ” she said. “ Go on. 
I am not afraid of you ; but, remember, you will 
swing for it. This is not Benin or Ashantee — this 
is England ! ” 

He answered in an even voice : 

“ Don’t fear, missee. Gun no to kill nobody. 
Only to protect myself.” 

He saw the wonder in her face, and ex- 
plained : 

“ I heard this morning what master said in his 
room. You no thought I heard. He say, ‘ If you 
have any fault to find with that infernal nigger ’ — 
he said that — ‘ shoot him on sight.’ Now you call 
me nigger, speak to me like a dog. And you want 
me to go into your house by door which I not 

Digitized by 


The Mystery of “ The Grove” 167 

know. Gun safer now with me. Safer for Oolanga 
if gun wanted to hurt him.” 

“ What have you in that box ? ” 

“ That is treasure for you, missee. I take eare 
of it, and give it to you when we get in.” 

Lady Arabella took in her hand a small key 
which hung at the end of her watch-chain, and 
moved to a small door, low down, round the comer, 
and a little downhill from the edge of the Brow. 
Oolanga, in obedience to her gesture, went back to 
the iron door. Adam looked carefully at the mon- 
goose box as the African went by, and was glad 
to see that it was locked. Unconsciously, as he 
looked, he fingered the key that was in his waist- 
coat pocket. When Oolanga was out of sight, 
Lady Arabella, who had waited quite still, said 
to him : 

“ Mr Salton, will you oblige me by coming with 
me for a few minutes ? I have to see that — that 
coloured person — on a matter of business, and I 
do not care to see him alone. I shall be happier 
with a witness. Do you mind obliging me, and 
coming ? It will be very kind of you.” 

He bowed, and walked with her to the door 
round the comer. 

Digitized by LjOoq le 



The moment they got out of sight of the nigger, 
Adam said to Lady Arabella : 

“ One moment whilst we are alone. You had 
better not trust that nigger ! ” 

Her answer was crisp and concise : 

“ I don’t.” 

“ Forewarned is forearmed. Tell me if you will — 
it is for your own protection. Why do you mistrust 
him ? ” 

“ It is an odd story, but I had better tell you, 
though, in truth, it is somewhat humiliating — 
disturbing — to my amour propre. He is a thief — 
at least, so I gather from his readiness to commit 
a felony. Then you saw that he took my pistol 
practically under threat. Again he wants to 
blackmail me — oh I have lots of reasons to distrust 

“ He blackmail you ! The scoundrel ! But how 
could he hope to do such a thing ? ” 

“ My friend, you have no idea of that man’s 
impudence. Would you believe that he wants 
me to marry him ? ” 

1 68 

Digitized by 


Exit Oolanga 1 69 

“ No ! ” said Adam incredulously, amused in 
spite of himself. 

“ Yes, and wanted to bribe me to do it by sharing 
a chest of treasure — at least, he thought it was — 
stolen from Mr Caswall. Why do you yourself 
distrust him, Mr Salton ? ” 

“ I shall give you an instance. Did you notice 
that box he had slung on his shoulder ? That 
belongs to me. I left it in the gun-room when I 
went to lunch. He must have crept in and stolen 
it. Doubtless he thinks that it, too, is full of 

“ He does ! ” 

“ How on earth do you know? ” asked Adam. 

“ A little while ago he offered to give it to me 
— another bribe to accept him. Faugh ! I am 
ashamed to tell you such a thing. The beast ! ” 

“ You say he has an appointment to see you ? ” 
asked Adam. 

“ Yes, that was his reason for taking my revolver. 
He thought perhaps, naturally enough, that I 
should want to shoot him.” 

“ You would be all right for anything of that 
sort with him — if I were on the jury.” 

“ Oh, he isn’t worth it. After all, even a bullet is 
of some, little value.” 

“ Don’t alarm yourself, Lady Arabella. You 
shan’t have to do any dirty work. I have a gun ! ” 
As he spoke, he took from his pistol pocket a revolver 
carrying an ounce ball. “ I mention this now to 

Digitized by LjOoq le 

170 The Lair of the White Worm 

make and keep your mind at rest. Moreover, I 
am a good and a quick shot.” 

“ Thanks ! ” 

“ By the way, in case there should be any need 
to know later, what revolver do you use ? ” 

“ Weiss of Paris, No. 3,” she answered. “ And 
you ? ” 

“ Smith and Wesson, ‘ The Ready ! 9 ” 

“ You noticed, I suppose, how deftly he stole it ? ” 
Adam was astonished — with quite a new astonish- 
ment. It had been so dark that he himself had 
only been able to see the general movement as 
Oolanga had annexed the pistol. And yet, this 
woman had seen the smallest details. She must 
have wonderful eyes to see in the dark like that ! 

Whilst they had been speaking, she had opened 
the door, a narrow iron one well hung, for it had 
opened easily and closed tightly without any 
creaking or sound of any kind. Within all was 
dark ; but she entered as freely and with as little 
misgiving or restraint as if it had been broad day- 
light. For Adam, there was just sufficient green 
light from somewhere to see that there was a broad 
flight of heavy stone steps leading upward ; but 
Lady Arabella, after shutting the door behind her, 
when it closed tightly without a clang, tripped up 
the steps lightly and swiftly. For an instant all 
was dark again, but there came again the faint 
green light which enabled him to see the outlines 
of things. Another iron door, narrow like the first 

Digitized by LjOoq le 

Exit Oolanga 1 7 1 

and fairly high, led into another large room, the 
walls of which were of massive stones so closely 
joined together as to exhibit only one smooth 
surface. This too presented the appearance of 
having at one time been polished. On the far 
side, also smooth like the walls, was the reverse 
of a great wide but not high iron door. Here 
there was a little more light, for the high-up aperture 
over the door opened to the air. Lady Arabella 
took from her girdle another small key, which she 
inserted in a tiny keyhole in the centre of a massive 
lock, which seemed the counterpart and reverse 
of the lock of some two feet square which Adam 
had noted on the outside of the door. The great 
bolt seemed wonderfully hung, for the moment 
the small key was turned the bolts of the great 
lock moved noiselessly and the iron doors swung 
open. On the stone steps outside stood Oolanga 
with the mongoose box slung over his shoulder. 
Lady Arabella stood a little on one side and moved 
back a few feet, and the African, accepting the 
movement as an invitation, entered in an obsequious 
way. The moment, however, that he was inside, 
he gave a quick look around him, and in an oily 
voice, which made Adam shudder, said with a sniff : 

“ Much death here — big death. Many deaths. 
Good, good ! ” 

He sniffed round as if he was enjoying a scent. 
The matter and manner of his speech were so re- 
volting that instinctively Adam’s hand wandered 

Digitized by LjOoq le 

172 The Lair of the White Worm 

to his revolver, and, with his finger on the trigger, 
rested satisfied that he was ready for any 

Oolanga seemed more “ crawly ” than ever in 
his movements. He unslung the box from his 
shoulder and put it on a stone ledge which ran 
along the side of the room to the right of the iron 
door, saying as he looked towards Adam : 

“ I have brought your box, master, as I thought 
you would want it. Also the key which I got from 
your servant.” 

He laid this beside the box, and began to sniff 
again with an excellent pretence of enjoyment, 
raising his nose as he turned his head round as if 
to breathe all the fragrance he could. 

There was certainly opportunity for such enjoy- 
ment, for the open well-hole was almost under his 
nose, sending up such a stench as Almost made Adam 
sick, though Lady Arabella seemed not to mind it 
at all. It was like nothing that Adam had ever met 
with. He compared it with all the noxious experi- 
ences he ever had — the drainage of war hospitals, 
of slaughter-houses, the refuse of dissecting rooms. 
None of these were like it, though it had something 
of them all, with, added, the sourness of chemical 
waste and the poisonous effluvium of the bilge of a 
water-logged ship whereon a multitude of rats 
had been drowned. However, he was content not 
to go any further in a search for analogy ; it was 
quite bad enough to have to endure even for a 

Digitized by LjOoq le 


Exit Oolanga 

moment, without thinking of it. Besides, he was 
lost in wonder at a physical peculiarity of Lady 
Arabella. She seemed to be able to see as well in the 
dark as in the light. In the gloom under the trees, 
she had followed every movement of Oolanga. In 
the Cimmerian darkness of the inner room she had 
not been for a moment at a loss. It was wonderful. 
He determined to watch for developments of this 
strange power — when such should arrive. In the 
meantime, he had plenty of use for his eyesight to 
notice what was going on around him. The move- 
ments of Oolanga alone were enough to keep his 
eyes employed. Since the African had laid down 
the box and the key, Adam had only taken his 
eyes off it to watch anything seemingly more 
pressing. He had an idea or an intuition that 
before long that box would be of overwhelming 
importance. It was by an intuition also that he 
grasped his revolver and held it tight. He could 
see that Oolanga was making up his mind to take 
some step of which he was at present doubtful. 
All in a moment it explained itself. He pulled out 
from his breast Lady Arabella’s pistol and shot at 
him, happily missing. Adam was himself usually 
a quick shot, but this time his mind had been on 
something else and he was not ready. However, 
he was quick to carry out an intention, and he was 
not a coward. In another second both men were 
in grips. Beside them was the dark well-hole, 
with that horrid effluvium stealing up from its 

Digitized by CjOOQ le 

174 The Lair of the White Worm 

mysterious depths. Adam and Oolanga both had 
pistols. Lady Arabella, who had not one, was 
probably the most ready of them all in the 
theory of shooting, but that being impossible, she 
made her effort in another way. Gliding forward 
with inconceivable rapidity, she tried to seize the 
African ; but he eluded her grasp, just missing, in 
doing so, falling into the mysterious hole. As he 
swayed back to firm foothold, he turned her own 
gun on her and shot. Instinctively Adam leaped 
at her assailant ; clutching at each other, they 
tottered on the very brink. Lady Arabella’s 
anger, now fully awake, was all for Oolanga. She 
moved forward towards him with her bare hands 
extended, and had just seized him when the catch 
of the locked box from some movement from within 
flew open, and the king-cobra-killer flew at her 
with a venomous fury impossible to describe. As 
it seized her throat she caught hold of it, and, 
with a fury superior to its own, actually tore it 
in two just as if it had been a sheet of paper. The 
strength used for such an act must have been 
terrific. In an instant, it seemed to spout blood 
and entrails, and was hurled into the well-hole. 
In another instant she had seized Oolanga, and with 
a swift rush had drawn him, her white arms encir- 
cling him, with her down into the gaping aperture. 
As the forms flashed by him Adam saw a medley 
of green and red lights blaze in a whirling circle, 
and as it sank down into the well a pair of blazing 

Digitized by LjOoq le 


Exit Oolanga 

green eyes became fixed, sank lower and lower with 
frightful rapidity, and disappeared, throwing up- 
ward the green light whioh grew more and more 
vivid every second. As the light sank into the 
noisome depths, there oame a shriek which chilled 
Adam’s very blood — a prolonged agony of pain and 
terror which seemed to have no end. 

Adam Salton felt that he would never be able 
to free his mind from the memory of those last 
dreadful moments. The gloom which surrounded 
that horrible charnel pit, which seemed to go down 
to the very bowels of the earth, conveyed from far 
down the sights and sounds of the nethermost hell. 
The ghastly fate of the African as he sank down to 
his terrible doom, his black face growing grey with 
terror, his white eyeballs, now like veined blood- 
stone, rolling in the helpless extremity of fear. The 
mysterious green light was in itself a milieu of 
horror. And through it all the awful cry came up 
from that fathomless pit, whose entrance was flooded 
with gouts of fresh blood. Even the death of the 
fearless little snake-killer — so fierce, so frightful, 
as if stained with a ferocity which told of no living 
force above earth, but only of the devils of the pit 
— was only an incident. Adam was in a state of 
intellectual tumult, which had no peer in his exist- 
ence. He tried to rush away from the horrible 
place ; even the baleful green light thrown up 
through the gloomy well-shaft was dying away as 
its source sank deeper into the primeval ooze. The 

Digitized by 


176 The Lair of the White Worm 

darkness was closing in on him in overwhelming 
density. Darkness in such a place and with such a 
memory of it ! He made a wild rush forward — 
slipt on the steps in some sticky, acrid-smelling 
mass that felt and smelt like blood, and, falling 
forward, felt his way into the inner room, where 
the well-shaft was not. A faint green light began 
to grow around him until it was sufficient to 
see by. And then he rubbed his eyes in sheer 
amazement. Up the stone steps from the narrow 
door by which he had entered, glided the thin 
white-clad figure of Lady Arabella, the only colour 
to be seen on her being blood-marks on her face 
and hands and throat. Otherwise, she was calm 
and unruffled, as when earlier she stood aside for 
him to pass in through the narrow iron door. 

Digitized by LjOoq le 



Adam Salton went for a walk before returning to 
Lesser Hill ; he felt that it might be well, not only 
to steady his nerves, shaken by the horrible scene, 
but to get his thoughts into some sort of order, so 
as to be ready to enter on the matter with Sir 
Nathaniel. He was a little embarrassed as to 
telling his uncle, for already affairs had so vastly 
progressed beyond his original view that he felt a 
little doubtful as to what would be the old gentle- 
man’s attitude when he should hear of the strange 
events for the first time. He might take umbrage 
that he had not been consulted or, at least, told of 
the earlier happenings. At first there had only 
been inferences from circumstances altogether out- 
side his uncle and his household. Now there were 
examples of half the crimes in the calendar, of 
which there was already indisputable proof, to- 
gether with dark and bloody mysteries, enough to 
shake the nerves of the whole country-side. Mr 
Salton would certainly not be satisfied at being 
treated as an outsider with regard to such things, 
most of which had points of contact with the 

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178 The Lair of the White Worm 

interior of his own house. It was with an immense 
sense of relief that Adam heard that he had tele- 
graphed to the housekeeper that he was detained 
by business at Walsall, where he would remain for 
the night ; and that he would be back in the morn- 
ing in time for breakfast. When Adam got home 
after his walk, he found Sir Nathaniel just going 
to bed. He did not say anything to him then of 
what had happened, but contented himself with 
arranging that they would walk together in the 
early morning, as he had much to say that would 
require serious attention. 

Strangely enough he slept well, and awoke at 
dawn with his mind clear and his nerves in their 
usual unshaken condition. The maid brought up, 
with his early morning cup of tea, a note which 
had been found in the letter-box. It was from 
Lady Arabella, and was evidently intended to put 
him on his guard as to what he should say about 
the previous evening. He read it over carefully 
several times before he was satisfied that he had 
taken in its full import. 

“ Dear Mr Salton, — I cannot go to bed until 
I have written to you, so you must forgive me if I 
disturb you, and at an unseemly time. Indeed, 
you must also forgive me if, in trying to do what is 
right, I err in saying too much or too little. The 
fact is that I am quite upset and unnerved by all 
that has happened in this terrible night. I find 

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Self-justification 179 

it difficult even to write ; my hands shake so that 
they are not under control, and I am trembling 
all over with memory of the horrors we saw enacted 
before our eyes. I am grieved beyond measure 
that I should be, however partially or remotely, a 
cause of this shock and horror coming on you. 
Forgive me if you can, and do not think too hardly 
of me. This I ask with confidence, for since we 
shared together the danger — the very pangs — of 
death, I feel that we should be to one another 
something more than mere friends, that I may 
lean on you and trust you, assured that your 
sympathy and pity are for me. A common danger 
draws, they say, even men together. How close, 
then, must be the grasp of a poor, weak woman to 
you, a brave, strong man, and we have together 
looked into the eyes of Death. You really must 
let me thank you for the friendliness, the help, the 
confidence, the real aid at a time of deadly danger 
and deadly fear which you showed me. That 
awful man — I shall see him for ever in my dreams. 
His black, malignant face will shut out all memory 
of sunshine and happiness. I shall eternally see 
his evil eyes as he threw himself into that well-hole 
in a vain effort to escape from the inevitable con- 
sequences of his own misdoing. The more I think 
of it, the more apparent it seems to me that he had 
premeditated the whole thing — of course, except his 
own horrible death. He must have intended to 
murder me, else why did he take away from me 

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180 The Lair of the White Worm 

my pistol, the only weapon I had ? He probably 
intended to murder you too. If he had known 
you had a revolver, he would have tried to get that 
also, I am sure. You know that women do not 
reason — we know — that he meant to seize that 
occasion also for stealing my emeralds.” 

When next Adam saw her he asked : 

“ How did it all come about ? ” 

She explained simply, sweetly, and seeming to 
say what she could in the man’s favour, but doubly 
damning him whilst she did so. 

“ Perhaps you have noticed — of course, I do not 
blame if you have not; men are not supposed 
to remember such trivial things — a fur collar I 
occasionally wear — or rather wore, it is now. It is 
one of my most valued treasures — an ermine collar 
studded with emeralds. They are very fine ones, if 
that is any justification to anything. It is an old 
collar, with hanging pieces as well as those of the 
collar proper. I had often seen the nigger’s eyes 
gleam covetously when he looked at it. Un- 
happily, I wore it yesterday. That may have 
been the last cause that lured the poor man to 
his doom. I hope you do not think me altogether 
hard-hearted. Of course, as a Christian, I ought 
to forgive my enemies, and this individual was 
my enemy — he tried to murder me, and did rob 
me ; but it is above my nature to forgive him 
stealing my emeralds, which were an heirloom, and, 
though valuable, in themselves of greater value to 

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Self-justification 1 8 1 

me from historical association. I mention these 
things now, for I may not have an opportunity of 
referring to them again.” 

The letter went on : 

“ I saw a look on your face as the nigger sank 
into that terrible pit which I — probably wrongly — 
mistook ; but it seemed to me you were surprised 
at seeing what seemed to be my arms round his 
neck. The fact is, on the very brink of the abyss 
he tore the collar from my neck and threw it over 
his own shoulder. That was the last thing of him 
that I saw. When he- sank into the hole, I was 
rushing from the iron door, which I pulled behind 
me. I am glad to say I did, for it shut out from 
me the awful sight. When I heard that soul- 
sickening yell, which marked his disappearance in 
the deep, darkling chasm, I was more glad than I 
can say that my eyes were spared the pain and 
horror which my ears had to endure. Even with 
the fear and horror which I had so recently endured, 
and the last awful moments which, although it 
was through his own act, he had to suffer, I could 
not forgive him — I have prayed ever since, and 
will ever pray, for forgiveness of my unchristian 
spirit. And it may one day come in God’s mercy. 
I have endured the punishment ; the sweetness of 
forgiveness of such an error may come in time. 
Won’t you pray for me too ? ” 

“ When I tore myself out of the villain’s grasp 
as he sank into the well-hole, I flew upstairs to be 

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1 82 The Lair of the White Worm 

safe with you again. But it wad not till I was out 
in the night, and saw the blessed stars gleaming 
and flashing above me in their myriad beauty, that 
I could realise what freedom meant. Freedom ! 
Freedom ! Not only from that noisome prison- 
house, which has now such a memory, but from 
the more noisome embrace of that hideous monster. 
Whilst I live I shall always thank you for my 
freedom. You must let me. A woman must 
sometimes express her gratitude ; otherwise it is 
too great to bear. I am not a sentimental girl 
who merely likes to thank a man. I am a woman 
who knows all, of bad as well as good, that life can 
give. I have known what it is to love and to lose. 
But there, you must not let me bring any un- 
happiness into your life. I must live on — as I have 
lived — alone, and, in addition, bear with other 
woes the memory of this latest insult and horror. 
I hardly know which is greatest or worst. In the 
meantime, I must get away as quickly as possible 
from Diana’s Grove. In the morning I shall go 
up to town, where I shall remain for a week — I can- 
not stay longer, as certain business affairs demand 
my presence here after that time. I think, how- 
ever, that a week in the rush of busy London, 
surrounded with multitudes of busy, commonplace 
people, will help to wear out — I cannot expect 
total obliteration — the terrible images of the by- 
gone night. When I can sleep easily — which will 
be, I expect, after a day or two — I shall be fit to 

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Self-justification 183 

return home and take up again the burden which 
will, I suppose, be always with me. 

“ I shall be most happy to see you on my return — 
or earlier, if my good fortune sends you on any 
errand to London. I shall be in the Great 
Eastern Hotel. In that busy spot we may forget 
some of the dangers and horrors we have already 
shared together. Adieu, and thank you, again and 

again, for all your kindness and consideration to 



Adam was naturally somewhat surprised by this 
effusive epistle, but he determined to say nothing 
of it to Sir Nathaniel until he should have thought 
it well over. 

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When Adam Salton met Sir Nathaniel de Salis at 
breakfast, he was glad that he had taken the time 
to turn things over in his mind. The result had 
been that not only was he familiar with the facts 
of everything, but he had already so far differenti- 
ated them that he was now able to arrange them in 
his own mind according to their values. Thus he was 
in a position to form his own opinions, and to accept 
any fact or any reading of it if at all credible ; 
whatever was mysterious, or seemed to be mysteri- 
ous, he frankly accepted as such, and held it apart 
in his own mind for future investigation and dis- 
cussion. The utility of this course was apparent 
to him when he began to talk to Sir Nathaniel, 
which was so soon as breakfast was over and they 
had withdrawn to the study. They were alone, 
for Mr Salton was not expected home till noon. 
Breakfast had been a silent function, so it did 
not interfere in any way with the process of 

So soon as the door was closed, Sir Nathaniel 
began : 


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An Enemy in the Dark 185 

“ I see, Adam, that much has occurred, and that 
you have much to tell me and to consult about.” 

“ That is so, sir. I suppose I had better begin 
by telling you all I know — all that has happened 
since I left you last evening ? ” 

“ Quite right. Tell me all. It will be time 
enough to look for meanings when we know facts — 
that is, know them as we understand them to be.” 
Accordingly Adam began, and gave him details 
of all that had been during the previous evening. 
He confined himself rigidly to the narration of 
circumstances, taking care not * to colour events, 
even impliedly, by any comment of his own, or 
any opinion of the meaning of things which he did 
not fully understand. At first, Sir Nathaniel 
seemed disposed to ask some questions, but shortly 
gave this over when he recognised that the narra- 
tion was well thought over, concise and self- 
explanatory. Thenceforth, he contented himself 
with quick looks and glances, easily interpreted 
or by some acquiescent motions of his hands, when 
such could be convenient, to emphasise his idea of 
the correctness of inference. He was so evidently 
en rapport with Adam, that the latter was helped 
and emboldened when the time came for his 
statement of beliefs or inferences as to the meanings 
of things. This suited Adam exactly — and also 
Sir Nathaniel came to a quicker, more concise, and 
more thorough understanding than he could other- 
wise have done. Until Adam ceased speaking, 

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1 86 The Lair of the White Worm 

having evidently come to an end of what he had to 
say with regard to this section of his story, the 
elder man made absolutely no comment whatever, 
remaining silent, except on a very few occasions 
asking an elucidatory question now and then. Even 
when Adam, having finished the purely narrative 
part of what he had seen and heard, took from 
his pocket Lady Arabella’s letter, with manifest 
intention of reading it, he did not make any com- 
ment. Finally, when Adam folded up the letter 
and put it, in its envelope, back in his pocket, as an 
intimation that he had now quite finished, the old 
diplomatist carefully made a few notes in his 
pocket-book. After a careful reconsideration of 
these, he spoke : 

“ That, my dear Adam, is altogether admirable. 
It is a pity that your duty in life does not call for 
your writing either political or military despatches 
or judicial reports. For in all of these branches 
of work you would probably make a name for 
yourself. I think I may now take it that we are 
both well versed in the actual facts, and that our 
further conference had better take the shape of 
mutual exchange of ideas. Let us both ask ques- 
tions as they may arise ; and I do not doubt 
that we shall arrive at some enlightening con- 
clusions.’ ’ 

“ Carried nem. con. Will you kindly begin, sir ? 
and then we shall have all in order. I do not 
doubt that with your experience you will be able 

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An Enemy in the Dark 187 

to dissipate some of the fog which envelops certain 
of the things which we have to consider.” 

“ I hope so, my dear boy. For the beginning, 
then, let me say that Lady Arabella’s letter makes 
clear some things which she intended — and also 
some things which she did not intend. But, before 
I begin to comment and draw deductions, let me 
ask you a few, a very few questions. I know that 
this is not necessary ; but as two men of full age, 
talking of matters of a peculiarly intimate kind 
and which may bring in considerations of other 
persons, it will be as well to have a thorough 
understanding, leaving nothing to chance or 
accident ! ” 

“ Good again, sir ! Please ask away what you 
will. I shall keep nothing back.” 

“ Right, my boy. That is the spirit in which to 
begin a true conference, if it is to have any result.” 
The old man pondered a few moments, and 
then asked a question which had manifestly been 
troubling him all along, and which he had made 
up his mind to ask : 

“ Adam, are you heart-whole, quite heart-whole, 
in the matter of Lady Arabella ? ” 

He answered at once, each looking the other 
straight in the eyes during question and answer : 

“ Lady Arabella, sir, is a very charming woman, 
and I have hitherto deemed it a privilege to meet 
her — to talk to her — even — since I am in the con- 
fessional — to flirt a little with her. But if you 

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1 88 The Lair of the White Worm 

mean to ask if my affections are in any way engaged, 
I can emphatically answer ‘ No ! ’ — as indeed you 
will understand when presently I give you the 

“ Could you — would you mind giving me the 
reason now ? It will help us to understand what 
is before us in the way of difficulty, and what to 
rely on.” 

“ Certainly, sir. I can speak at once — should 
like to. My reason, on which I can fully depend, is 
that I love another woman ! ” 

“ That clinches it. May I offer my good wishes, 
and, I hope, my congratulations ? ” 

“ I am proud of your good wishes, sir, and I 
thank you for them. But, it is too soon for con- 
gratulations — the lady does not even know my 
wishes yet. Indeed, I hardly knew them myself, 
as definite, till this moment. Under the circum- 
stances, it may be wiser to wait a little.” 

“ Quite so. A very wise precaution. There can 
never be any harm in such delay. It is not a check, 
remember, but only wise forethought. I take it 
then, Adam, that at the right time I may be allowed 
to know who the lady is ? ” 

Adam laughed a low, sweet laugh, such as ripples 
from a happy heart. 

“ In the matter there need not be an hour’s, a 
minute’s delay. I shall be glad to share my little 
secret with you, sir. We two are, I take it, tiled. 
So that there come no wrong or harm to anyone 

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An Enemy in the Dark 189 

else in the enlargement of the bounds of our confi- 
dence ! ” 

“ None. As for me, I promise absolute discre- 
tion and, unless with your own consent, silence.” 
Both men smiled and bowed. 

“ The lady, sir, whom I am so happy as to love 
and in whom my dreams of life-long happiness are 
centred, is Mimi Watford ! ” 

“ Then, my dear Adam, I need not wait to offer 
hopes and congratulations. She is indeed a very 
charming lady. I do not think I ever saw a girl 
who united in such perfection the qualities of 
strength of character and sweetness of disposition. 
With all my heart, I congratulate you. Then I 
may take it that my question as to your heart- 
wholeness is answered in the affirmative ? ” 

“ Yes ; and now, sir, may I ask in turn why the 
question ? ” 

“ Certainly ! I asked because it seems to me 
that we are coming to a point where such questions 
would be painful — impossible, no matter how great 
friends we may be.” 

Adam smiled. 

“ You will now understand why I spoke so 
positively. It is not merely that I love Mimi, but 
I have reason to look on Lady Arabella as her 
enemy ! ” 

“ Her enemy ? ” 

“ Yes. A rank and unscrupulous enemy who is 
bent on her destruction.” 

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190 The Lair of the White Worm 

Sir Nathaniel paused. 

“ Adam, this grows worse and worse. I do not 
contradict you ; do not doubt. I only want to be ' 

He went on with an infinite sadness in his 
tone. “ I wish to God, my dear young friend, 
that I could disagree with you. I wish also that 
she or you — if not both — could be kept com- 
pletely outside this question. But that, I fear, 
is impossible. Now for a moment let me hark 
back to your story of last night. It is better that 
we clear up an important matter right here ; we can 
then get on more easily.” 

Adam said nothing, but he looked interrogatively. 

The other went on : “ It is about Lady Arabella’s 
letter in connection with last night. And indeed, 
I almost fear to approach it — not on her account, but 
on yours and Mimi’s.” Adam, when his friend men- 
tioned Mimi so familiarly, felt his heart warm at once 
from the chill that accompanied the ominous opening 
of his speech. Sir Nathaniel saw the look and smiled. 
Then he went over to the door, looked outside it and 
returned, locking it carefully behind him. 

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‘ ‘ Am I looking grave ? ” asked Sir Nathaniel 
inconsequently when he re-entered the room. 

“ You certainly are, sir.” 

“ Yes. I ought to be. I feel as if I had on the 
Black Cap ! ” Then he went on more calmly : he 
felt that he should remain calm if he could. Calm- 
ness was a necessary condition of what he had to say. 
“ This is in reality a black-cap affair. We little 
thought the day we met, only a few days ago, that 
we should be drawn into such a vortex. Already 
we are mixed up in robbery, manslaughter, and 
probably murder, but, a thousand times worse 
than all the crimes in the calendar, in an affair of 
gloom and mystery which has no bottom and no 
end — with magic and demonology, and even with 
forces of the most unnerving kind, which had their 
origin in an age when the world was different from 
the world which we know. We are going back to 
the origin of superstition — to the age when dragons 
of the prime tore each other in their slime. I shall 
come back to all these things presently. We must 
fear nothing — no conclusion, however improbable, 


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192 The Lair of the White Worm 

almost impossible it may be. Life and death is at 
the present moment hanging on our judgment. 
Life and death not only for ourselves, but f6r 
others whom we love. Therefore we must think 
accurately, go warily, and act boldly. Remember, 
I count on you as I hope you count on me.” 

“ I do, with all confidence.” 

“ Then,” said Sir Nathaniel, “ let us think justly 
and boldly and fear nothing, however terrifying it 
may seem. I suppose I am to take as exact in 
every detail your account of all the strange things 
which happened whilst you were in Diana’s Grove ? ” 
“ So far as I know, yes. Of course I may be 
mistaken in recollection or appreciation, at the time, 
of some detail or another, but I am certain that in 
the main what I have said is correct.” 

“ Then you will not be offended if I ask you, if 
occasion demands it, to reiterate ? ” 

“ I am altogether at your service, sir, and proud 
to serve.” 

“ We have one account of what happened from 
an eye-witness whom we do believe and trust — that 
is you. We have also another account written by 
Lady Arabella under her own hand. These two 
accounts do not agree. Therefore we must take it 
that one of the two is lying.” 

“ Apparently, sir.” 

“ And Lady Arabella is the liar ! ” 

“ Apparently — as I am not.” 

“ We must, therefore, try to find a reason for her 

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lying. She has nothing to fear from Oolanga, who 
is dead. Therefore the only reason which could 
actuate her would be to convince someone else that 
she was blameless. This ‘ someone ’ could not be 
you, for you had the evidence of your own eyes. 
There was no one else present ; therefore it must have 
been an absent person.” 

“ That seems beyond dispute, sir.” 

“There is only one other person whose good 
opinion she could wish to keep — that person we 
know to be Edgar Caswall. He is the only one who 
fills the bill.” 

The old man smiled and went on : 

“Her lies point to other things besides the death 
of the African. She evidently wanted it to be 
accepted that Oolanga had killed the mongoose, 
but that his falling into the well was his own act. 
I cannot suppose that she expected to convince 
you, the eye-witness ; but if she wished later on to 
spread the story, it was at least wise of her to try 
to get your acceptance of it.” 

“ That is so ! ” 

Again Sir Nathaniel smiled. He felt that his 
argument was convincing. 

“ Then there were other matters of untruth. 
That, for instance, of the ermine collar embroidered 
with emeralds. If an understandable reason be re- 
quired for this, it would be to draw attention away 
from the green lights which were seen in the room, 
and especially in the well-hole. Any unprejudiced 


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194 The Lair of the White Worm 

person would accept the green lights to be the eyes 
of a great snake such as tradition pointed to living 
in the well-hole. In fine, therefore, Lady Arabella 
wanted the general belief to be that there was no 
snake of the kind in Diana’s Grove. Let us con- 
sider this. For my own part, I don’t believe in a 
partial liar. This art does not deal in veneer ; 
a liar is a liar right through. Self-interest may 
prompt falsity of the tongue ; but if one prove to be 
a liar, nothing that he says can ever be believed. 
This leads us to the conclusion that because she 
said or inferred that there was no snake, we should 
look for one — and expect to find it, too. 

“ Now let me here digress. I live, and have for 
many years lived, in Derbyshire, a county more 
celebrated for its caves than any other county in 
England. I have been through them all, and am 
familiar with every turn of them ; as also with 
other great caves in Kentucky, in France, in Ger- 
many, and a host of places — in any of these tre- 
mendously deep caves of narrow aperture which are 
so valued by intrepid explorers, who descend 
narrow gullets of abysmal depth and sometimes 
never return. In many of the caverns in the Peak 
I am convinced that some of the smaller passages 
were used in primeval times as the lairs of some of 
the great serpents of legend and tradition. It may 
have been that such caverns were formed in the 
usual geologic way — bubbles or flaws in the earth’s 
crust — which were later used by the monsters of the 

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I 9S 

period of the young world. It may have been, of 
course, that some of them at least were worn origi- 
nally by water ; but in time they all found a use when 
suitable for living monsters. Such may be — I only 
give it as a suggestion for thought. 

“ This brings us to another point more difficult to 
accept and understand than any other requiring belief 
in a base not usually accepted or indeed entered on : 
whether such abnormal growths, as must have been 
in the case of the earlier inhabitants, could have 
ever changed in their nature. Some day the study 
of metabolism may progress so far as to enable us 
to accept structural changes proceeding from an 
intellectual or moral base. If such ever be probable, 
we may lean towards a belief that great animal 
strength may be a sound base for changes of all 
sorts. If this be so, what could be a more fitting 
subject than primeval monsters whose strength was 
such as to allow a survival of thousands of years ? 
Mind, I do not assert, but only suggest it as a subject 
for thought. We do not know yet if brain can 
increase and develop independently of other parts 
of living structure. This again I only suggest as a 
subject for thought. My reason for doing so will 
be presently touched on. 

“ After all, the mediaeval belief in the Philosopher’s 
Stone which could transmute metals, has its counter- 
part in the accepted theory of metabolism which 
changes living tissue. Why, the theory has been 
put forward by a great scientist that the existence 

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196 The Lair of the White Worm 

of radium and its products proves the truth of the 
theory of transmutation of metal. In an age of 
investigation like our own, when we are returning 
to science as the base of wonders — almost of 
miracles, — we should be slow to refuse to accept facts, 
however impossible they may seem to be. We are 
apt to be hide-bound as to theory when we begin to 
learn. In a more enlightened age, when the base 
of knowledge has not only been tested but broadened, 
perhaps we shall come to an understanding of that 
marvellous definition of 4 faith ’ by St Paul : 4 the 
substance of things hoped for ; the evidence of 
things unseen.’ 

44 Now, my dear Adam, pardon these digressions 
into matters which are as far from that with which 
we are concerned as are the Poles from each other ; 
but even these may help us to accept, even if they 
cannot help to elucidate. We are in a quagmire, 
Day boy, as vast and as deep as that in which the 
monsters of the geologic age found shelter and 
perhaps advance. 

44 Now, I think we have talked enough for the 
present of many things hard to understand. It will 
be better, perhaps, if we lay them aside for the 
present. When you and I resume this chat we shall 
be more clear-headed to accept evident deductions, 
more resolute and better satisfied to act on them. 
Let us say 4 Good-night.’ ” 

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Wjhen after breakfast the next morning Sir 
Nathaniel and Adam met, the elder man, after 
inquiring how his companion had slept, and satisfy- 
ing him as to his own experiences in the same 
matter, said : 

“ I think we may take it that we are both calm 
of nerve and brain, and that we are fit to resume 
so momentous a subject as that deferred. Suppose 
we begin by taking a problematical case of fact 
based on our conclusions of last night. Let us 
suppose a monster of the early days of the world — ■ 
a dragon of the prime — of vast age running into 
thousands of years, to whom had been conveyed 
in some way — it matters not — a brain of even the 
most rudimentary kind — some commencement, 
however small, just sufficient for the beginning of 
growth. Suppose the monster to be of incalculable 
size and of a strength quite abnormal — a veritable 
incarnation of animal strength. Suppose this 
animal allowed to remain in one place, thus being 
removed from accidents of interrupted development : 
might not, would not this creature in process of 


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198 The Lair of the White Worm 

time — ages, if necessary — have that rudimentary 
intelligence developed? There is no impossibility 
in all this. It is only the natural process of evolu- 
tion ; not taken from genii and species, but from 
individual instances. Atmosphere, which is the 
condition of life — vegetable and animal, — is an im- 
mediate product of size. In the beginning, the 
instincts of animals are confined to alimentation, 
self-protection, and the multiplication of their 
species. As time goes on and the needs of life 
become more complex, power follows need. Here 
let me make another degression. We are prepared 
already for abnormal growth — it is the corollary of 
normal growth. We have been long accustomed to 
consider growth as applied almost exclusively to 
size in its various aspects. But Nature, who has no 
doctrinaire ideas, may equally apply it to concentra- 
tion. A developing thing may expand in any given 
way or form. Now, it is a scientific law that 
increase implies gain and loss of various kinds ; 
what a thing gains in one direction it may lose in 
another. In mechanics direction is a condition of 
the increase or limitation of speed or force. Why 
not apply this more widely ? May it not be that 
Mother Nature may deliberately encourage decrease 
as well as increase — that it may be an axiom that 
what is gained in concentration is lost in size ? 
Take, for instance, monsters tradition has accepted 
and localised, such as the Worm of Lambton or that 
of Spindleston Heugh. If such an one were, by its 

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The Decree 


own process of metabolism, to change much of its 
bulk for a little intellectual growth, we should at once 
arrive at a new class of creature, more dangerous, 
perhaps, than the world has ever had any experience 
of — a force which can think, which has no soul and 
no moral, and therefore no acceptance of responsi- 
bility. A worm or snake would be a good illustra- 
tion of this, for it is cold-blooded and therefore 
removed from the temptations which often weaken 
or restrict warm-blooded creatures. If, for instance, 
the Worm of Lambton — if such ever existed — were 
guided to its own ends by an organised intelligence 
capable of expansion, what form of creature could 
we imagine which would equal it in potentialities of 
evil ? Why, such a being would devastate a whole 
country. Now, all these things require much 
thought, and we want to apply the knowledge 
usefully, and we should therefore be exact. Would 
it not be well to have another * easy,’ and resume 
the subject later in the day ? ” 

“ I quite agree, sir. I am all in a whirl already ; 
and I want to attend carefully to what you say ; so 
that I may try to digest it.” 

Both men seemed fresher and better for the “easy,” 
and when they met in the afternoon each of them 
had, out of his thought, something to contribute to 
the general stock of information. Adam, who was 
by nature of a more militant disposition than his 
elderly friend, was glad to see that the conference 
at once assumed a practical trend. Sir Nathaniel 

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200 The Lair of the White Worm 

recognised this, and, like an old diplomatist, turned 
it to present use. 

“ Tell me now, Adam, what is the outcome, in 
your own mind, of our previous conversations ? ” 

He answered at once : 

“ That the whole difficulty already assumes 
practical shape ; but with added dangers that at 
first I did not dream of.” 

“ What is the practical shape, and what are the 
added dangers ? I am not disputing, but only 
trying to clear my own ideas by the consideration 
of yours ” 

Sir Nathaniel waited, so he went on : 

“ Will it bore you, sir, if I put in order of an 
argument your own ideas as seen by me ? ” 

“ Not at all; I should like it if it will help to clear 
my own mind.” 

“ Then I will begin with your argument — only in 
general, not in detail. And please bear in mind, 
sir, that I am trying to state not so much what you 
said as to the ideas conveyed to my mind — possibly 
erroneously, — but in the honest belief to comprehend 

“ Go on, my dear boy, do not fear. I shall 
understand and, if necessary, make allowance.” 

So Adam went on : 

“ In the past, in early days of the world, there 
were monsters who were so vast that they could 
exist thousands of years. Some of them must have 
overlapped the Christian era. They may have 

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The Decree 


progressed intellectually in process of time. If 
they had in any way so progressed, or got even the 
most rudimentary form of brain, they would be the 
most dangerous things that ever were in the world. 
Tradition says that one of these monsters lived in 
the Marsh of the East and came up to a cave in 
Diana’s Grove which was also called the Lair of the 
White Worm. Such creatures may have grown 
down (small) as well as up (long). They may have 
grown into, or something like, human beings. Lady 
Arabella March is of snake nature. She has com- 
mitted crimes to our knowledge. She retains some- 
thing of the vast strength of her primal being — can 
see in the dark — has eyes of a snake. She used the 
nigger, and then dragged him through the snake’s 
hole down to the swamp ; she is intent on evil, and 
hates some we love. Result . . . .” 

“ Yes, the result you arrive at ? ” 

“ First, Mimi Watford should be taken away at 
once — I should suggest West Australia. And 

then ” 

“ Yes ? ” 

“ The monster must be destroyed.” 

“ Bravo ! That is a true and fearless conclusion. 
At whatever cost, it must be carried out.” 

“ At once ? ” 

“ Soon, at all events. That creature’s very 
existence is a danger. Her presence in this neigh- 
bourhood makes the danger immediate.” 

As he spoke, Sir Nathaniel’s mouth hardened and 

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202 The Lair of the White Worm 

his eyebrows came down till they met. There was 
no doubting his concurrence in the resolution, or his 
readiness to help in carrying it out. But he was 
an elderly man with much experience and know- 
ledge of law and diplomacy. It seemed to him to 
be a stern duty to prevent anything irrevocable 
taking place till it had been thought out and all was 
ready. There were all sorts of legal cruxes to be 
thought out, not only regarding the taking of life, 
even of a monstrosity in human form, but also of 
property. Lady Arabella, be she woman or snake 
or devil, owned the ground she moved in, according 
to British law, and the law is jealous and swift to 
avenge wrongs done within its ken. Within three 
hundred years the law has accepted facts and evi- 
dence that would not be received in later years by 
school children. All such difficulties should be — 
must be — avoided for Mr Salton’s sake, for Adam’s 
own sake, and, most of all, for Mimi Watford’s sake. 
Before he spoke again, Sir Nathaniel had made up 
his mind that he must try to postpone decisive 
action until the circumstances depended on — which, 
after all, were only problematical — should have been 
tested satisfactorily, one way or another. When he 
did speak, Adam at first thought that his friend 
was wavering in his intention, or “ funking ” the 
responsibility. He could have no such thought 
regarding Adam. That young man’s strong, mobile 
face was now as set as flint. His eyes were full of 
fire, non-blazing fire, but slumbrous, which is much 

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The Decree 


more indicative of danger. His brows were in a 
straight line across his face, and his eyes in parallel 
course. As to purpose, he was fixed ; the only 
questipn with him was — when ! However, his re- 
spect for Sir Nathaniel was so great that he would 
not act or even come to a conclusion on a vital point 
without his sanction. 

He came close and almost whispered in his ear : 

“ Will you speak with me of this again — say, when 
my uncle has gone to bed, and we shall be undis- 
turbed ? ” 

Sir Nathaniel nodded. They had both deter- 
mined to wait. 

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When Mr Salton had retired for the night, Adam 
and Sir Nathaniel with one accord moved to the 
study. Things went with great regularity at Lesser 
Hill, so they knew that there would be no interrup- 
tion to their talk. 

When their cigars were lighted, Sir Nathaniel 
said : 

“ I hope, Adam, that you do not think me either 
slack or changeable of purpose. I really am not so, 
and I mean to go through this business to the bitter 
end — whatever it may be. Be satisfied that my 
first care is, and shall be, the protection of Mimi 
Watford. To that I am pledged ; my dear boy, we 
who are interested are all in some form of the same 
danger. That monster out of the pit hates and 
means to destroy us all — you and me certainly, and 
probably your uncle. We are just on the verge of 
stormy times for us all. I wanted especially to talk 
with you to-night, for I cannot help thinking that 
the time is fast coming — if it has not come already — 
when we must take your uncle into confidence. 
It was one thing when fancied evils threatened, 


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A Living Barbette 

but now he as well as the rest of us is marked for 
death ; and it is only right that he should know all.” 

“ 1 am with you, sir. Things have changed since 
we agreed to keep him out of the trouble. Now we 
dare not ; consideration for his feelings might cost 
him his life. It is a duty we have — and no light or 
pleasant one, either. I have not a shadow of doubt 
that he will want to be one with us in this. But 
remember, we are his guests, in his house ; and his 
name, his honour have to be thought of as well as 
his safety.” 

“ I am still with you — to the death. Only, if 
there be any special danger to him, let me bear, or at 
any rate share it.” 

“ All shall be as you wish, Adam. We need say 
no more of that. We are at one. And now as to 
practicability. What are we to do ? We cannot 
manifestly take and murder Lady Arabella off-hand. 
Therefore we shall have to put things in order for 
the killing, and in such a way that we may not be 
taxed with a base crime. That is why I suggested 
waiting till we have some definite and complete 

Adam stood up, and his voice rang as he said 
heartily : 

“ You are quite right, sir, as usual. We must be 
at least as exact as if we were in a law court. I see 

Sir Nathaniel acquiesced in such a hearty way 
as to set his young companion’s mind at rest. 

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2o6 The Lair of the White Worm 

Adam sat down again and resumed the conversa- 
tion, using an even, reflective tone which made the 
deliberation altogether useful : 

“ It seems to me, sir, that we are in an exceed- 
ingly tight place. Our first difficulty is to know 
where to begin. Our opponent has pretty well all 
the trumps. I never thought this fighting an 
antediluvian monster was such a complicated job. 
This one is a woman, with all a woman’s wisdom and 
wit, combined with the heartlessness of a cocotte 
and the want of principle of a suffragette. She 
has the reserved strength and impregnability of a 
diplodocus. We may be sure that in the fight that 
is before us there will be no semblance of fair-play. 
Also that our unscrupulous opponent will not betray 
herself ! ” 

Sir Nathaniel commented on this : 

“ That is so. But being of feminine species, she 
probably will over-reach herself. That is much 
more likely — more in woman’s way. Now, Adam, 
it strikes me that, as we have to protect ourselves 
and others against feminine nature, our strong game 
will be to play our masculine against her feminine. 
Men can wait better than women.” 

He laughed a mirthless laugh that was all 
from the brain and had no heart at all, and 
went on : 

“ You must remember that this female has had 
thousands of years’ experience in waiting. As she 
stands, she will beat us at that game.” 

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A Living Barbette 207 

For answer Adam began preparing his revolver, 
which was at half-cock : 

“ There is always a quick way of settling differ- 
ences of that kind ! ” was all he said ; but Sir 
Nathaniel understood and again uttered a warning : 

“ How are differences to be settled with a creature 
of that kind ? We might as well fight with a bar- 
bette ; she is invulnerable so far as physical harm 
at our hands is concerned.” 

“ Even barbettes get occasionally blown up ! ” 
said Adam. 

“ Ah ! barbettes aren’t alive all over and, so far 
as we know, self -recuperative. No ! we must 
think out some plan to have ready if all else should 
fail. We had better sleep on it. She is a thing of 
the night ; and the night may give us some ideas.” 

So they both turned in. 

Adam knocked at Sir Nathaniel’s door in the gray 
of the morning, and, on being bidden, came into the 
room. He had several letters unclosed in his hand. 
Sir Nathaniel sat up in bed. 

“ Well ! ” 

“ I should like to read you a few letters, but, of 
course, shall not send them unless you approve. 
In fact ” — this with a smile and a blush — “ there are 
several things which I want to do ; but I hold my 
hand and my tongue till I have your approval.” 

“ Go on ! ” said the other kindly. “ Tell me all, 
and count at any rate on my sympathy and on my 
approval and help if I can see my way.” 

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2o8 The Lair of the White Worm 

Accordingly Adam proceeded : 

“ When I told you the conclusions I had arrived 
at, I put in the foreground that Mimi Watford 
should for the sake of her own safety be removed — 
to West Australia, I suggested, — and that the mon- 
ster which had wrought all the harm should be de- 

“ Yes, I remember.” 

“ To carry this into practice, sir, one preliminary 
is required — unless harm of another kind is to be 

Sir Nathaniel looked as if he had on his reflecting 
cap. Then he proceeded, taking up the other’s 
argument : 

“ Before she goes to West Australia, or indeed to 
anywhere else, Mimi should have some protector 
which all the world would recognise. The only 
form of this safety recognised by convention is 
marriage ! ” 

“ Yes, sir. I see you realise ! ” 

Sir Nathaniel smiled in a fatherly way. 

“ To marry, a husband is required. And that 
husband should be you.” 

“ Yes, yes.” 

“ And that marriage should be immediate and 
secret — or, at least, not spoken of outside ourselves. 
. . . And now I must ask you a somewhat delicate 
question ! Would the young lady be agreeable to 
that proceeding ? ” 

“ I do not know, sir 1 ” 

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A Living Barbette 209 

“ You do not know ? Then how are we to 
proceed ? ” 

“ I suppose we — or one of us — must ask her. 
That one must be myself — and I am ready.” 

“ Is this a sudden idea, Adam, a sudden resolu- 
tion ? ” 

“ A sudden resolution, sir, but not a sudden 
idea. The resolution is sudden because the need is 
sudden and imperative, If I were to speak in 
hyperbole, I could say that the idea is as old as Fate, 
and that the resolution was waiting before the 
beginning of the world I ” 

“ I am glad to hear it. I hope it will turn out 
that the coming of the White Worm has been a 
blessing in disguise. But now, if things have to be 
hurried on like this, what is to be the sequence of 
events ? ” 

“ First, that Mimi should be asked to marry me. 
If she agrees, all is well and good. The sequence is 

“ And is to be kept a secret amongst ourselves ? ” 

Adam answered at once : 

“ I want no secret, sir, except for Mimi’s good. 
For myself, I should like to go and shout it out on 
the house-tops ! But I see that we must be dis- 
creet. Untimely knowledge to our enemy might 
work incalculable harm.” 

“ And how would you suggest, Adam, that we 
could combine the momentous question with 
secrecy ? ” 


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2io The Lair of the White Worm 

Here Adam grew red and moved uneasily. Then 
with a sudden rush he spoke : 

“ Someone must ask her — as soon as possible ! ” 
“ And that someone ? ” 

“ I have been thinking the matter over, sir, since 
we have been here. It requires expedition to 
achieve safety, and we shall all have to do as duty 

“ Certainly. And I trust that none of us shall 
shirk such a duty. But this is a concrete thing. 
We may consider and propose in the abstract, but 
the action is concrete — who, again, is to be the 
‘ someone ’ ? Who is to ask her ? ” 

“ I thought that you, sir, would be so good ! ” 

“ God bless my soul ! This is a new kind of duty 
to take on one — at my time of life. Adam, I hope 
you know that you can count on me to help in any 
way I can ! ” 

“ I have counted on you, sir, when I ventured to 
make such a suggestion. I can only ask, sir,” he 
added, “ that you will be more than ever kind to me 
— to us, and look on the painful duty as a voluntary 
act of grace prompted by kindness and affection.” 
Sir Nathaniel said in a meek but not a doubting 
voice : 

“ Painful duty ! ” 

“ Yes,” said Adam boldly. “ Painful to you, 
though to me it would be all joyful.” 

“ Yes, I understand ! ” said the other kindly. 
Then he went on : “ It is a strange job for an 

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2 II 

A Living Barbette 

early morning ! Well, we all live and learn. I sup- 
pose the sooner I go the better. Remember, I am in 
your hands and shall do just what you wish, and 
shall try to do it just as you wish. Now you had 
better write a line for me to take with me. For, 
you see, this is to be a somewhat unusual transaction, 
and it may be embarrassing to the lady, even to 
myself. So we ought to have some sort of warrant, 
something to show on after-thought, that we have 
been all along mindful of her feelings. It will not 
do to take acquiescence for granted — although we 
act for her good. You had better write the letter 
to have ready, and I had better not know what is in 
it— except the main purpose of the introducing the 
subject. I shall explain fully as we go along any- 
thing that she may wish.” 

“ Sir Nathaniel, you are a true friend ; and I am 
right sure that both Mimi and I shall be grateful to 
you for all our lives — however long or however short 
they may be ! ” 

So the two talked it over and agreed as to points 
to be borne in mind by the ambassador. It was 
striking six when Sir Nathaniel left the house, Adam 
seeing him quietly off. 

As the young man followed him with wistful eyes 
— almost jealous of the privilege which his kind deed 
was about to bring him, he felt that his own heart 
was in his friend’s breast. 

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The memory of that morning was like a dream to 
all those concerned in it. Sir Nathaniel had a con- 
fused recollection of detail and sequence, though the 
main facts stood out in his memory boldly and 
clearly. Adam Salton’s recollection was of an 
illimitable time filled with anxiety, hope, and 
chagrin, all unified and dominated by a sense of 
the slow passage of time and accompanied by vague 
nebulous fears. Mimi could not for a long time 
think at all or recollect anything, except that Adam 
loved her and was saving her from a terrible danger. 
In the bitter time itself, whilst she was learning 
those truths she found her own heart. When she 
had time to think, later on, she wondered how or 
when she had any ignorance of the facts that Adam 
loved her and that she loved him with all her heart. 
Everything, every recollection however small, every 
feeling, seemed to fit into those elemental facts as 
though they had all been moulded together. The 
main and crowning recollection was her saying good- 
bye to Sir Nathaniel and entrusting to him loving 
messages straight from her heart to Adam Salton, 


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Green Light 

and of his bearing when with an impulse which she 
could not check — and did not want to — she put her 
lips to his and kissed him. Later, when she was 
alone and had time to think, it was a passing grief 
to her that she would have to be silent, for a time, 
to Lilia on the happy events of that strange early 
morning mission. 

She had, of course, agreed to keep all secret until 
Adam should give her leave to speak. 

The advice and assistance of Sir Nathaniel de 
Salis was a great help to Adam Salton in carrying 
out his idea of marrying Mimi Watford without 
publicity. He went with him to London, and, with 
his knowledge and influence, the young man got the 
license of the Archbishop of Canterbury for a private 
marriage. Sir Nathaniel then took him to live in 
his own house till the marriage should have been 
solemnised. All this was duly done, and, the for- 
malities having been fixed, Adam and Mimi were 
married at Doom. 

Adam had tried to arrange that he and his wife 
should start for Australia at once; but the first ship 
to suit them did not start for ten days. So he took 
his bride off to the Isle of Man for the interim. He 
wished to place a stretch of sea between Mimi and 
the White Worm, that being the only way to ensure 
protection for his wife. When the day for departure 
arrived, they went from Douglas in the King 
Orrey to Liverpool. On arrival at the landing-stage, 
they drove to Congleton, where Sir Nathaniel met 

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214 The Lair of the White Worm 

them and drove them at once to Doom, taking care 
to avoid any one that he knew on the journey. 
They travelled at a great pace and arrived before 
dusk at Doom Tower. 

Sir Nathaniel had taken care to have the doors 
and windows shut and locked — all but the door used 
for their entry. The shutters were up and the 
blinds down. Moreover, heavy curtains were drawn 
across the windows. When Adam commented on 
this, Sir Nathaniel said in a whisper : 

“ Wait till we are alone, and I shall tell you why 
this is done ; in the meantime not a word or a sign. 
You will approve when we have had a talk together.” 
They said no more on the subject till, when after 
dinner, they were ensconced alone in Sir Nathaniel’s 
study, which was on the top story of the tower. 
Doom Tower was a lofty structure, seated on an 
eminence high up in the Peak. The top of the tower 
commanded a wide prospect ranging from the hills 
above the Ribble to the near side of the Brow, which 
marked the northern bound of ancient Mercia. It 
was of the early Norman period, less than a century 
younger than Castra Regis. The windows of the 
study were barred and locked, and heavy dark 
curtains closed them in. When this was done 
not a gleam of light from the tower was seen from 

When they were alone Sir Nathaniel spoke, 
keeping his voice to just above a whisper : 

“ It is well to be more than careful. In spite of 

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Green Light 215 

the fact that your marriage was kept secret, as also 
your temporary absence, both are known.” 

“ How ? To whom ? ” 

“ How, I know not ; but I am beginning to have 
an idea. To whom is it the worst ? Where it is most 

“ To her ? ” asked Adam in momentary con- 

Sir Nathaniel shivered perceptibly as he answered : 
“ The White Worm — yes ! ” 

Adam noticed that from thence on he never 
spoke amongst themselves of Lady Arabella other- 
wise, except when he wished to divert the suspicion 
of others or cover up his own. Then, having opened 
the door, looked outside it and closed it again, he put 
his lips to Adam’s ear and whispered even more 
softly : 

“ Not a word, not a sound to disturb your wife. 
Her ignorance may be yet her protection. You 
and I know all and shall watch. At all costs, she 
must have no suspicion ! ” 

Adam hardly dared to breathe. He put his 
finger to his lips and at last said under his 
breath : 

“ I shall do whatever you tell me to, and all the 
thanks of my heart are to you ! ” 

Sir Nathaniel switched off the electric light, and 
when the room was pitch dark he came to Adam, 
took him by the hand, and led him to a seat set in 
the southern window. Then he softly drew back 

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216 The Lair of the White Worm 

a piece of the curtain and motioned his companion 
to look out. 

Adam did so, and immediately shrank back as 
though his eyes had opened on pressing danger. His 
companion set his mind at rest by saying in a low 
voice, not a whisper : 

“ It is all right ; you may speak, but speak low. 
There is no danger here — at present ! ” 

Adam leaned forward, taking care, however, not 
to press his face against the glass. What he saw 
would not under ordinary circumstances have 
caused concern to anybody but to him. With his 
knowledge, it was simply appalling — though the 
night was now so dark that in reality there was little 
to be seen. 

On the western side of the tower stood a grove 
of old trees of forest dimensions. They were not 
grouped closely, but stood a little apart from each 
other, producing the effect of a row widely planted. 
Over the tops of them was seen a green light, 
something like the danger signal at a railway- 
crossing. At the height of the tower, the light 
was not enough to see anything even close to it. 
It seemed at first quite still ; but presently, when 
Adam’s eye became accustomed to it, he could see 
that it moved a little as if trembling. This at once 
recalled to Adam’s mind all that had been. He 
seemed to see again the same duplicate light 
quivering above the well-hole in the darkness of 
that inner room at Diana’s Grove — to hear again 

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Green Light 

Oolanga’s prolonged shriek, and to see the hideous 
black face, now grown gray with terror, disappear 
into the impenetrable gloom of the mysterious 
orifice. Instinctively he laid his hand on his 
revolver, and stood up ready to protect his wife. 
Then, seeing that nothing happened, and that the 
light ‘and all outside the tower remained the same, 
he softly pulled the curtain over the window, and, 
rising up, came and sat down beside Sir Nathaniel, 
who looked up for a moment with a sharp glance, 
and said in an even voice : 

“ I see you understand. I need say nothing.” 

“ I understand ! ” he replied in the same quiet 

Sir Nathaniel switched on the light again, and 
in its comforting glow they began to talk freely. 

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“ She has diabolical cunning,” said Sir Nathaniel. 
“ Ever since you left, she has ranged along the 
Brow and wherever you were accustomed to 
frequent. I have not heard whence the knowledge 
of your movements came to her, nor have I been 
able to learn any data whereon have I been able to 
found an opinion. She seems to have heard both 
of your marriage and your absence ; but I gather, 
by inference, that she does not know where you and 
your wife are, or of your return. So soon as the 
dusk falls, she goes out on her rounds, and before 
dawn covers the whole ground round the Brow, 
and away up into the heart of the Peak. I 
presume she doesn’t condescend to rest or to eat. 
This is not to be wondered at in a lady who has 
been in the habit of sleeping for a thousand years 
at a time, and of consuming an amount of food at 
a sitting which would make a moderate-sized 
elephant kick the beam. However, be all that as 
it may, her ladyship is now nightly on the prowl, 
and in her own proper shape that she used before 
the time of the Romans. It certainly has great 


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At Close Quarters 

facilities for the business on which she is now 
engaged. She can look into windows of any 
ordinary kind. Happily, this house is beyond her 
reach, especially if she wishes — as she manifestly 
does — to remain unrecognised. But, even at this 
height, it is wise to show no lights, lest she might 
learn something of even our presence or absence.” 

Here Adam stood up again and spoke out. 

“ Would it not be well, sir, if some one of us 
should see this monster in her real shape at close 
quarters ? I am willing to run the risk — for I take 
it there would be no slight risk in the doing. I 
don’t suppose anyone of our time has seen her close 
and lived to tell the tale.” 

Sir Nathaniel rose and held up an expostulatory 
hand as he said : 

“ Good God, lad ! what are you suggesting ? 
Think of your wife and all that is at stake.” 

Adam interrupted : 

“ It is of my wife that I think, for her sake that 
I am willing to risk whatever is to be risked. But 
be assured I shall not drag her into it — or even tell 
her anything to frighten her. When I go out she 
shall not know of it.” 

“ But if you mention the matter at all she will 

“ The fact of the snake being on the look-out must 
be told to her to warn her, but I will do it in such 
a way as not to create any undue suspicion regarding 
herself. Indeed, I had made up my mind as to 

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220 The Lair of the White Worm 

what to say some time ago, when it was borne 
in on me to warn her about keeping the place 
dark. With your permission, I shall go now and 
tell her of that, and then when I return here 
you might lend me a key so that I can let my- 
self in.” 

“ But do you mean to go alone ? ” 

“ Certainly. It is surely enough for one person 
to run the risk.” 

“ That may be, Adam, but there will be 

“ How so ! You surely don’t mean that Mimi 
should come with me ? ” 

“ Lord, no ! But if she knew you were going she 
would be sure to want to go too ; so be careful not 
to give her a hint.” 

“ Be sure I shall not. Then who is to be the 
other ? ” 

“ Myself ! You do not know the ground ; and so 
would be sure to get into trouble. Now, I know 
every inch of it, and can guide you how to go safely 
to any place you want. Adam, this is an excep- 
tional thing — yielding to no law of action that any 
of us ever heard of. As to danger ! what of that 
to you and me when your wife’s safety is concerned ! 
I tell you, no forlorn hope that either of us ever 
heard of has a hundredth part of the danger we are 
running into. Yet I do it with all my heart — even 
as you do.” 

Adam made a low bow as to one worthy of all 

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At Close Quarters 

honour, but he said no word more on the subject. 
After he had switched off the light he then peeped 
out again through the window and saw where the 
green light still hung tremblingly above the trees. 
Before the curtain was drawn and the lights put up 
again, Sir Nathaniel said : 

“ So long as her ladyship does not know where- 
about we are, we shall have as much safety as remains 
to us ; so, then, bear in mind that we cannot be too 

When the two men slipped out by the back door 
of the house, they walked cautiously along the 
avenue which trended towards the west. Every- 
thing was pitch dark — so dark that at times they 
had to feel their way by the borders and palings and 
tree-trunks. They could still see, seemingly far in 
front of them and high up, the baleful dual light 
which at the height and distance seemed like a faint 
line. As they were now on the level of the ground, 
the light seemed infinitely higher than it had looked 
from the top of the tower ; it actually seemed now, 
when it trembled, to move amongst the stars. At 
the sight Adam’s heart fell ; the whole danger of 
the desperate enterprise which he had undertaken 
burst upon him. But shortly this feeling was 
followed by another which restored him to him- 
self — a fierce hate and loathing, and a desire to 
kill, such as he had never experienced or even 
dreamt of. 

They went on for some distance on a level road 

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222 The Lair of the White Worm 

fairly wide, from which the green light was still 
visible. Here Sir Nathaniel spoke softly again, 
placing his lips to Adam’s ear for safety : 

“ We must be very silent. We know nothing 
whatever of this creature’s power of either hearing 
or smelling, though we presume that both are 
of no great strength. As to seeing, we may pre- 
sume the opposite, but in any case we must 
try to keep in the shade or hidden behind the 
tree-trunks. The slightest error would be fatal 
to us.” 

Adam made no answer. He only nodded, in case 
there should be any chance of the monster seeing the 

After a time, that seemed interminable, they 
emerged from the circling wood. It was like 
coming out into sunlight by comparison with the 
misty blackness which had been around them. 
There was actually some light — enough to see by, 
though not sufficient to distinguish things at a 
distance or minutely. Naturally Adam’s eyes 
sought the green light in the sky. It was still in 
about the same place, but its surroundings were more 
visible. It now was at the summit of what seemed 
to be a long white pole, near the top of which were 
two pendant white masses like rudimentary arms. 
The green light, strangely enough, did not seem 
lessened by the surrounding starlight, but had a 
clearer effect and a deeper green. Whilst they were 
carefully regarding this — Adam with the aid of a 

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At Close Quarters 

folding opera-glass — their nostrils were assailed by a 
horrid stench — something like that which rose from 
the well-hole in Diana’s Grove. This put them in 
mind of the White Worm, and they tried to examine 
its position as seen against the sky in the faint star- 
light. By degrees, as their eyes got and held the right 
focus, they saw an immense towering mass that 
seemed snowy white. It was tall and wonderfully 
thin. The lower part was hidden by the trees which 
lay between, but they could follow the tall white shaft 
and the duplicate green lights which topped it. As 
they looked there was a movement : the shaft seemed 
to bend and the line of green light descended amongst 
the trees. They could see the green light twinkle as 
it passed through the obstructing branches. Seeing 
where the head of the monster was, the two men 
ventured a little further forward, and, a propi- 
tious ray of moonlight helping, saw that the hidden 
mass at the base of the shaft was composed of vast 
coils of the great serpent s body, forming a sub- 
stratum or base from which the upright mass rose. 
As still they looked, this lower mass moved, the 
glistening folds catching the moonlight, and they 
could see the monster’s progress was along the 
ground. It was coming towards them at a swift 
pace, so instinctively they both turned and ran, 
taking care as they went to make as little noise as 
possible, either by their footfalls or by disturbing 
the undergrowth close to them. They never 
stopped or paused till they saw before them the 

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224 The Lair of the White Worm 

high dark tower of Doom. Quickly they entered, 
looking the door behind them. They did not need 
to talk, with such a horrid memory behind them and 
still accompanying them. So in the dark they 
found their separate rooms and went to bed. 

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Sir Nathaniel was in the library next morning after 
breakfast when Adam came to him carrying a letter. 
As he entered the room he said : 

“ Her ladyship doesn’t lose any time. She has 
begun work already I ” 

Sir Nathaniel, who was writing at a table near the 
window, looked up. 

“ What is it ? ” said he. 

Adam held him the letter he was carrying. It was 
in a blazoned envelope. 

“ Ha ! ” said Sir Nathaniel, “ from Lady Arabella ! 
I expected something of the kind.” 

“ But, sir,” said Adam, “ how could she have 
known we were here ? She didn’t know last night.” 
“ I don’t think we need trouble about that, Adam. 
There is much we do not and cannot understand. 
This is only another mystery. Suffice it that she 
does not know. It is all the better and safer for us.” 
“ Better and safer 1 ” replied Adam, amazed. 

“ Certainly. It is better to know the danger 
before us ; and this is a warning, though it was not 
intended so. Let me see it. Addressed to Mr 

225 15 

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226 The Lair of the White Worm 

Adam Salton 1 Then she knows everything. All 
the better.” 

“ How,” said Adam with a puzzled look. “ How 
is it all the better ? ” 

“ General process of reasoning, my boy ; and the 
experience of some years in the diplomatic world. 
Just that we are all the safer with a creature that 
follows its own instincts. This creature is a mon- 
ster without heart or consideration for anything or 
anyone. She is not nearly so dangerous in the open 
as when she has the dark to protect her. Besides, 
we know, by our own experience of her movements, 
that for some reason she shuns publicity. Perhaps 
it is that she knows it won’t interfere in her designs 
on Caswall— or rather, on Caswall’s estate. In 
spite of her vast bulk and abnormal strength, she is 
afraid to attack openly. After all, vast as she is, she 
is only a snake and with a snake’s nature, which is 
to keep low and squirm and proceed by stealth and 
cunning. She will never attack when she can run 
away, although she knows well that running away 
would probably be fatal to her. What is the letter 
about ? ” 

Sir Nathaniel’s voice was calm and self-possessed. 
When he was engaged in any struggle of wits he was 
all diplomatist. 

“ It is asking Mimi and me to tea this afternoon 
at Diana’s Grove, and hoping that you also will 
favour her.” 

Sir Nathaniel smiled as he answered directly : 

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In the Enemy’s House 227 

“ Please ask Mrs Salton to accept for us all.” 

“ Accept ? To go there ? She means some 
deadly mischief. Surely — surely it would be wiser 

“ It is an old trick that we learn early in diplo- 
macy, Adam : to fight on ground of your own choice. 
It is true that she initiated the place on this occasion ; 
but by accepting it we make it ours. Moreover, 
she will not be able to understand our reason or any 
reason for our doing so, and her own bad conscience 
— if she has any bad or good — and her own fears and 
doubts will play our game for us. No, my dear boy, 
let us accept, by all means.” 

“ Must we accept for you too, sir ? I am loth that 
you should run such a risk. Surely you are better 
out of it.” 

“ No ! It is better that I should be with you. In 
the first place, it will be less suspicious — you know 
you are my guests, and it will be better to preserve 
convention than to break it. In the next place, and 
the main reason for my going, there will be two of us 
to protect your wife in case of necessity. As to 
fear for me, do not count that. In any case, I am 
not a timorous man. And in this case I should 
accept all the danger that could be heaped on me.” 

Adam said nothing, but he silently held out his 
hand, which the other shook : no words were 

When it was getting near tea-time, Mimi asked 
Sir Nathaniel : 

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228 The Lair of the White Worm 

44 Shall we walk over ? It is only a step.” 

“ No, my dear,” he answered. 44 We must make 
a point of going in state. We want all publicity.” 
She looked at him inquiringly. 44 Certainly, my 
dear. In the present circumstances publicity is a 
part of safety. Do not be surprised if, whilst we are 
at Diana’s Grove, occasional messages come for you 
— for all or any of us.” 

44 I see ! ” said Mrs Salton. “ You are taking no 

44 None, my dear. All I have learned at foreign 
courts and amongst civilised and uncivilised people 
is going to be utilised within the next couple of 

44 I shall gladly learn,” she said : “ it may help me 
on other occasions.” 

44 I hope to God it will not ! ” 

Sir Nathaniel’s voice was full of seriousness, 
which made the look grave also. Somehow it 
brought to her in a convincing way the awful 
gravity of the occasion. Before they came to the 
gate, Sir Nathaniel said to her : 

4 4 1 have arranged with Adam certain signals 
which may be necessary if certain eventualities 
occur. These need be nothing to do with you 
directly. Only bear in mind that if I ask you or 
Adam to do anything, please do not lose a second 
in the doing of it. We shall all try to pass off such 
moments with an appearance of unconcern. In all 
probability nothing requiring such care shall occur. 

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In the Enemy’s House 229 

She will not try force though she has so much of it 
to spare. Whatever she may attempt to-day of 
harm to any of us will be in the way of secret plot. 
Some other time she may try force, but — if I am 
able to prognosticate such a thing — not to-day. 
The messengers who may ask for you or any of us 
shall not be witnesses only : they may help to 
stave off danger.” Seeing query in her face he went 
on. “ Of what kind the danger may be I know not, 
and cannot guess. It will doubtless be some 
ordinary circumstance of triviality; but none the 
less dangerous on that account. Here we are at the 
gate. Now, be self-possessed and careful in all 
matters, however small. To keep your head is half 
the battle.” 

There were quite a lot of servant men in livery in 
the hall. The doors of the green drawing-room 
were thrown open, and Lady Arabella came forth 
and offered them cordial welcome. This having 
been got over, Lady Arabella went into the other 
room, where a servant was holding a salver on 
which was laid a large letter sealed. The instant 
her back was turned, Sir Nathaniel whispered to 
Adam : 

“ Careful ! I remember just such a cloud 6f 
servants at the Summer Palace in the Kremlin the 
day the Grand Duke Alexipof was assassinated at 
the reception given to the Khan of Bokhara.” 

With a slight motion of his left hand, he put the 
matter aside, enjoining silence. At that moment a 

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230 The Lair of the White Worm 

servant in plain clothes came and bowed to Lady 
Arabella, saying : 

“ Tea is served, your ladyship, in the atrium.” 

The doors of a suite of rooms were thrown 
partially open, the farthest of them showing the 
lines and colours of a Roman villa. Adam, who 
was acutely watchful and was suspicious of every- 
thing, saw on the far side of this newly disclosed 
room a panelled iron door of the same colour and 
configuration as the outer door of the inner room 
where was the well-hole wherein Oolanga had dis- 
appeared. Something in the sight alarmed him, 
and he quietly went forward and stood near the 
door. He made no movement even of his eyes, but 
he could see that Sir Nathaniel was watching him 
intently and, he fancied, with approval. 

They all sat near the table spread for tea, Adam 
still keeping near the door. Lady Arabella had 
taken Mimi with her, the two men following, and 
sat facing the iron door. She fanned herself, im- 
pressively complaining of heat, and told one of the 
footmen to throw all the outer doors open. Tea 
was in progress when Mimi suddenly started up with 
a look of fright on her face ; at the same moment, 
the men became cognisant of a thick smoke which 
began to spread through the room — a smoke which 
made those who experienced it gasp and choke. 
The men — even the footmen — began to edge uneasily 
towards the inner door. Lady Arabella alone was 
unmoved. She sat still in her seat at the table, with 

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In the Enemy’s House 231 

a look of unconcern on her face which disturbed all 
present, except Sir Nathaniel — and later, Adam, so 
soon as he caught Sir Nathaniel’s eye. Denser and 
denser grew the smoke, and more acrid its smell. 
Presently, Mimi, towards whom the draught from 
the open door wafted the smoke, rose up choking, and 
ran to the door, which she threw open to its fullest 
extent, disclosing on the outside of it a curtain of 
thin silk fixed not to the door but the doorposts. 
As the door opened more freely the draught from 
the open door swayed the thin silk towards her, 
enveloping her in a sort of cloud. In her fright, she 
tore down the curtain, which enveloped her from 
head to foot. Then she ran towards the open outer 
door, unconscious or heedless of the fact that she 
could not see where she was going. At this moment, 
Adam, followed by Sir Nathaniel, rushed forward 
arid joined her — Adam catching her by the upper 
arm and holding her tight. It was well that he did 
so, for just before her lay the black orifice of the well- 
hole, which, of course, she could not see with the silk 
curtain round her head. The floor was extremely 
slippery ; something like thick oil had been spilled 
where she had to pass ; and close to the edge of the 
hole her feet shot from under her, and she stumbled 
forward towards the well-hole. 

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When Adam saw Mimi slip, he sprang forward, still 
holding her arm, so, as they both moved forward at 
equal rate of speed, there was no unnecessary shock. 
Instinctively he flung himself backward, still holding 
her. His weight here told, and, as his grip held her 
fast ; he dragged her up from the hole and they fell 
together on the floor outside the zone of slipperiness. 
In a moment he had sprung to his feet and raised 
her up, so that together they rushed out through 
the open door into the sunlight, Sir Nathaniel 
coming close behind them. They were all pale 
except the old diplomatist, who looked both calm 
and cool. It sustained and cheered both Adam and 
his wife to see him thus master of himself. Both 
Mr and Mrs Salton managed to follow his example, 
to the wonderment of the footmen, who saw the 
three who had just escaped a terrible danger walking 
together gaily, as under the guiding pressure of Sir 
Nathaniel’s hand they turned to re-enter the house. 
When they were out of earshot of the servants, Sir 
Nathaniel whispered softly : 

“ Hush — not a sound. Do not appear to notice 

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A Race for Life 


that anything has happened. We are not safe yet — 
not out of this ordeal.” 

And so chatting and laughing they re-entered the 
atrium where Lady Arabella still sat in her place 
as motionless as a statue of marble. In fact, all 
those in the room remained so still as to give the 
newcomers the impression that they were looking 
at an instantaneous photograph. In a few seconds, 
however, normal sound and movement were re- 
newed. Lady Arabella, whose face had blanched 
to a deadly white, now appeared to be in great 
spirits, and resumed her ministrations at the tea- 
board as though nothing unusual had happened. 
The slop-basin was full of half-burned brown paper 
over which tea had been poured. 

Sir Nathaniel, who had been narrowly observing 
his hostess, took the first opportunity afforded 
him of whispering to Adam : 

“ More than ever, be careful. The real attack is 
to come yet. She is too quiet for reality. When I 
give my hand to your wife to lead her out — by what- 
ever door, — I don’t know which yet, — come with us — 
quick, and caution her to hurry. Don’t lose a 
second, even if you have to make a scene. Hs-s-s-h ! ’ ’ 
Then they resumed their places close to the table, 
and the servants, in obedience to Lady Arabella’s 
order, brought in fresh tea. 

Thence on, that tea-party seemed to Adam, whose 
faculties were at their utmost intensity, like a 
terrible dream. As for poor Mimi, she was so over- 

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234 The Lair of the White Worm 

wrought both with present and future fear, and 
with horror at the danger she had escaped, that her 
faculties were numb. However, she was braced up 
for a trial, and she felt assured that whatever might 
come she would be able to go through with it. Sir 
Nathaniel seemed just as usual — suave, dignified, 
and thoughtful — perfect master of himself and his 
intentions. To her husband it was evident that 
Mimi was ill at ease. The mere way she kept 
constantly turning her head to look around her, the 
quiok coming and going of the oolour of her face, 
her hurried breathing, alternating with periods of 
suspicious calm, were to those who had power to 
discern subtle evidences of mental perturbation. 
To her, the attitude of Lady Arabella seemed com- 
pounded of social sweetness and personal considera- 
tion. It would be hard to imagine any more 
thoughtful and tender kindness towards an honoured 
guest. Even Adam seemed touched with it, though 
he never relaxed his vigilance or took his eyes off 
the lady’s movements. When tea was over and the 
servants had come to clear away the cups, Lady 
Arabella, putting her arms round Mimi’s waist, 
strolled with her into the adjoining room, where she 
collected a number of photographs which were 
scattered about, and, sitting down beside her guest, 
began to show them to her. While she was doing 
this, the servants closed all the doors of the suite 
of rooms and that which opened from the room out- 
side, — that of the well-hole into the avenue. 

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A Race for Life 235 

Presently she came back to the room where 
Adam and Sir Nathaniel were, and sat on a sofa 
on which Mimi had already taken her seat. 
Suddenly, without any seeming cause, the light 
in the room began to grow dim. The light 
outside seemed to become similarly affected, 
even the glass of the window becoming obscure. 
Sir Nathaniel, who was sitting close to Mimi, 
rose to his feet, and, crying, “Quick! ” caught 
hold of her right hand and began to drag her from 
the room. Adam caught her other hand, and 
between them they drew her through the outer 
door which the servants were beginning to close. 
It was difficult at first to find the way, the dark- 
ness was so great ; but to their relief a multitude 
of the cowled birds rushed through the open door, 
and then, falling back, formed a lane-way through 
the air which there was no mistaking. In seem- 
ingly frantic haste they rushed through the avenue 
towards the gate, Adam whistling shrilly. Mr 
Salton’s double carriage with the four horses and 
two postillions, which had been waiting quite still 
in the angle of the avenue, dashed up. Her husband 
and Sir Nathaniel lifted — almost threw — Mimi into 
the carriage. The postillions plied whip and spur, 
and the vehicle, rocking with its speed, swept 
through the gate and tore up the road. Behind 
them was a hubbub — servants rushing about, orders 
being called out, doors shutting, and somewhere, 
seemingly far back in the house, a strange noise 

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236 The Lair of the White Worm 

like a lumbering cart moving on thin ice. There 
was no slackening of pace. Every nerve of the men, 
and even of the horses, was strained as they dashed 
recklessly along the road. The two men held Mimi 
between them, the arms of both of them round her 
as though protectingly. As they went, there was a 
sudden rise in the ground ; but the horses, breathing 
heavily as if mad, dashed up it at racing speed, not 
even slackening their pace when the hill fell away 
again leaving them to hurry along the downgrade. 
At the utmost speed of which the horses were 
capable, they made for Macclesfield. Thence on to 
Congleton. Having passed the latter place, as they 
looked back they saw a great shapeless mass behind 
them, its white showing through the creeping dusk, 
all form lost in its swift passage. From Congleton 
they headed for Runcorn, where there were clusters 
of lights at the bridge and a stream of single lights, or 
small groups of lights, alone by the ship canal. The 
horses tore madly on, seemingly in the extremity of 
terror, and followed in their course by a sickening 
smell such as had arisen through the well-hole. At 
Runcorn they headed for Liverpool, joyous, even in 
the midst of their terror, when they saw the blaze 
of lights at the landing-stage and extending down 
the river till they disappeared in the line of the 
piers and floating buoys. As they drew near they 
heard with glad ears the hooting of a great steamer, 
ablaze with many lights from stem to stem. 

“ We are in time ! ” said Adam, but made no 

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A Race for Life 237 

other remark. At Runcorn they saw a white mass 
slip down the slope from the roadway to the Mersey, 
and heard the wash of a great body that slid into 
the tide-way. The postillions, with their goal in 
sight, redoubled their exertions, and they tore along 
the streets at reckless pace, careless of the shouted 
warnings and threats of the police and the many 
drivers of various vehicles. They tore down the 
steep movable way to the landing-stage — just in 
time to see the great vessel move into the river, 
and to hear the throb of the engines. 

The hearts of Adam and his wife grew cold, for 
their last chance seemed gone. But at the foot of 
the movable bridge stood Davenport, watch in hand. 
The moment the carriage drove up he raised his 
hand in signal to the captain of a great Isle of Man 
steamer, who was evidently looking out for him. 
When he saw the hand raised, he worked the engine 
telegraph, and the great paddle-wheels began to 
revolve. The Manx Maid was the fastest boat 
sailing from Liverpool ; and from the instant the 
flanges to her paddles struck the water, she began 
to overhaul the Australian boat. They had not 
got far down the river when she overtook the latter 
and ranged alongside without slackening speed. 
Affairs had already been arranged between the two 
boats with a time to be reckoned by seconds. Adam 
and his wife, Sir Nathaniel, and Davenport were 
transferred to the ocean steamship whilst going at 
as full speed as was allowable at this point of the 

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238 The Lair of the White Worm 

river, and the latter swept on her way. Davenport 
went down to his cabin with Adam, telling him 
on the way what arrangements had been made and 
how he had received the message from Diana’s 
Grove ; and that the voyagers would be able to get 
off at Queenstown as they might desire. 

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There seemed to be a great and unusual excitement 
on the river and along both banks as the Manx Maid 
swept on her way. From the tops of the lighthouses 
and the pleasure towers ; from the yards of every 
big ship going out or coming in, spy-glasses were 
projected and binoculars in use ; there was rushing 
to and fro on all the docks, and many shots were 
heard. Sir Nathaniel went about the deck trying 
to find the cause ; at last a quarter-master told him 
that, so far as they could make out from semaphore 
signals, a great whale had come down the river and 
was heading out to sea. It had been first noticed 
at Runcorn, he said, going downstream ; but where 
it had come from no one knew, for it had been un- 
noticed before that time. For Sir Nathaniel and 
his friends this was quite sufficient. The danger 
was not over yet. Adam went straight to the 
captain and made a request that the search-light 
with which the ship was equipped should be kept 
on the alleged whale day and night, as long as it 
might be within sight. This was attended to at 
once, and so long as there was anything to be seen 


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240 The Lair of the White Worm 

there were constant reports. Adam and his friends 
had many opportunities of seeing the monster, and 
more than once recognised the contours of its head 
and the green flash of its eyes. Just before mid- 
night the report came that the whale had been seen 
to turn, and was now heading towards the Mersey. 
Then all was darkness, and reports ceased. The 
pursuit had been given over. 

Adam and Mimi and Sir Nathaniel slept sound 
that night. 

Refreshed with sleep, which had for many nights 
been a stranger to them all, the party rose with 
renewed courage and the brave intentions which 
come with it. 

When Queenstown was in sight, Adam, leaving 
his wife in their cabin, took Sir Nathaniel to the 
saloon, then empty, and astonished him by telling 
him that he was going off when the ship stopped, 
and was returning to the Brow at once. 

“ But what about your wife ? ” the latter asked. 
“ Does she go on alone ? ” 

“ No, sir ; she comes back with me,” was the 
startling reply. 

Sir Nathaniel walked back and forwards several 
times before he spoke : 

“ I presume, my dear boy, that you have thought 
well over what you are about to do, and weighed up 
the possible consequences. I am not given to inter- 
fere with my neighbour’s affairs, and such a thing 
as this is a man’s own responsibility to be decided 

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Back to Doom 


entirely by himself. Of course when he has a wife 
her wishes are paramount. What does she say ? ” 
“ We are quite agreed, Sir Nathaniel. We both 
see it as a duty which we owe to other people to be 
on the spot and do what we can.” 

“ But,” expostulated Sir Nathaniel, “ with the 
terrible experiences you have had — the recollection 
of the terrible dangers which you have escaped — is 
it wise to place such an awful burden as a possible 
repetition, or even extension of these things, on 
the shoulders of a young girl just entering — and 
happily entering — life ? Forgive my interference. 
I shall not press my views unduly on either of you ; 
but to bring the view before your notice is also a 
duty, a very sacred duty which I must not forgo.” 

“ I know that, sir, and with all our heart Mimi 
and I thank you for your kindness. But it is just 
because of that experience which is already had, and 
perhaps paid for, that our power to help others has 
grown — and our responsibility in equal proportion.” 
Sir Nathaniel said solemnly : 

“ God forbid that I should come between any man 
—or woman — and a duty. Remember that I am 
with you, heart and soul. I shared the trouble and 
the risk with you at the beginning, and, please God, 
I shall do so to the end — whatever that may be ! ” 
Sir Nathaniel said no more, but he was helpful in 
all ways, loyally accepting the wishes of his friends 
and supporting them. Mimi thanked him in the 
warmth of her handclasp, for his sharing the risk , 


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2\2 The Lair of the White Worm 

and for his devoted friendship. Then they three 
settled all matters so far as they could foresee. 

When the ship arrived in the roads at Queenstown 
they debarked in the tender and set out in the first 
train towards Liverpool. There, in obedience to in- 
structions telegraphed to him by Davenport, they 
were met with the carriage with four horses and the 
postillions just as when they had left Diana’s Grove. 
The postillions, who were well-plucked men, had 
volunteered to come though they knew the terrible 
risk they ran. But the horses had been changed — 
wisely — for they could not easily get over the fright 
in the prolonged race against the monster. 

Mr Salton had been advised that they were not 
returning to Lesser Hill, so did not expect to see 
them. All was prepared at Doom with locks and 
bolts and curtains as when they left. 

It would be foolish to say that neither Adam nor 
Mimi had no fears in returning. On the contrary, 
the road from Liverpool and Congleton was a 
via dolorosa. Of course Mimi felt it more keenly 
than her husband, whose nerves were harder, and 
who was more inured to danger. Still she bore up 
bravely, and as usual the effort was helpful to her. 
When once she was in the study in the top of the 
turret, she almost forgot the terrors which lay out* 
side in the dark. She did not attempt even a peep 
out of the window ; but Adam did — and saw nothing. 
The full moonlight showed all the surrounding 
country, but nowhere was to be observed that 

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Back to Doom 


tremulous line of green light or the thin white tower 
rising up beyond the woods. 

The peaceful night had good effect on them all ; 
danger, being unseen, seemed afar off. At times it 
was hard to realise that it had ever been. With 
courage quite restored, Adam rose early and walked 
all along the Brow, seeing no change in the signs of 
life in Castra Regis. What he did see, to his wonder 
and concern, on his returning homeward, was Lady 
Arabella in her tight-fitting white dress and ermine 
collar, but without her emeralds, emerging from 
the gate of Diana’s Grove and walking towards the 
Castle. Pondering on this and trying to find some 
meaning in it, occupied his thoughts till he joined 
Mimi and Sir Nathaniel at breakfast. They were 
all silent during the meal, simply because none of 
them had anything to say. What had been had 
been, and was known to them all. Moreover, it 
was not a pleasant topic. One experience they had 
— at least Adam and Mimi had, for Sir Nathaniel 
had long ago learned all that it could teach — that is, 
that memory of even the most stirring or exciting 
or mournful time, soon passes ; the humdrum of life 
is beyond all episodes, and swamps them. A fillip 
was given to the conversation when Adam told of 
his seeing Lady Arabella, and her being on her way 
to Castra Regis. They each had something to say 
of her, and of what her wishes or intentions were 
towards Edgar Caswall. Mimi spoke bitterly of 
her in every aspect. She had not forgotten — and 

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244 The Lair of the White Worm 

never would — never could — the occasion when to 
Lilia’s harm she consorted even with the nigger. 
As a social matter, she was disgusted with her over 
following up of the rich landowner — “ throwing 
herself at his head so shamelessly,” was how she 
expressed it. She was interested to know that the 
great kite still flew from Caswall’s tower. But 
beyond such matters she did not try to go. Indeed, 
for such she had no data. She was really surprised 
— in a quiet way — to hear how fully the old order 
of things had been already restored. The only 
comments she made in this connection were of 
strongly expressed surprise at her ladyship’s 
“ cheek ” in ignoring her own criminal acts, and her 
impudence in taking it for granted that others had 
overlooked them also. Adam had tried unsuccess* 
fully to find any report of the alleged whale in the 
Mersey, so he remained silent on that subject. 
Perhaps he had a vague hope that the monster had 
been unable to sustain her maritime adventures, 
and had perished. He was well content that this 
should be so, though he had already made up his 
mind that he would spare neither time nor effort, 
or indeed life itself, to root out Diana’s Grove and 
all it contained. He had already expressed his 
intention to Sir Nathaniel and to Mimi. The 
former thoroughly approved his intention and 
pledged himself to support him in his efforts. Mimi 
agreed with him, but woman-like advised caution. 

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Thb more Mimi thought over the late events, the 
more puzzled she was. Adam had actually seen 
Lady Arabella coming from her own house on the 
Brow, yet he — and she too — had last seen the 
monster in the guise in which she had occasionally 
appeared wallowing in the Irish Sea. What did 
it all mean — what could it mean ? except that 
there was an error of fact somewhere. Could it be 
possible that some of them — all of them had been 
mistaken ? That there had been no White Worm 
at all ? That the eyes of Adam and Sir Nathaniel 
had deceived them ? She was all at sea ! On 
either side of her was a belief impossible of recep- 
tion. Not to believe in what seemed apparent 
was to destroy the very foundations of belief. . . . 
And yet . . . and yet in old days there had been 
monsters on the earth, and certainly some people 
had believed in just suoh mysterious changes of 
identity. ... It was all very strange. Perhaps, 
indeed, it was that she herself was mad. Yes, that 
must be it ! Something had upset her brain. She 
was dreaming untruths based on reality. Just 


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246 The Lair of the White Worm 

fancy how any stranger — say a doctor — would 
regard her if she were to calmly tell him that she 
had been to a tea-party with an antediluvian 
monster, and that they had been waited on by 
up-to-date men-servants. From this she went 
into all sorts of wild fancies. What sort of tea 
did dragons prefer ? what was it that essentially 
tickled their palates ? Who did the washing for 
dragons’ servants ? Did they use starch ? If, 
in the privacy of their houses — homes — lairs, dragons 
were accustomed to use knives and forks and 
teaspoons 1 Yes, that at any rate was true ; she 
had seen them used herself. Here she got into 
such a state of intellectual confusion that even the 
upside-down reasoning of the border-land between 
waking and sleeping would not account for it. She 
set herself to thinking deeply. Here she was in her 
own bed in the house of Sir Nathaniel de Salis, 
Doom Tower — that at any rate was a fact ; and to 
that she would hold on. She would keep quiet 
and think of nothing — certainly not of any of 
these strange things — till Adam was with her. 
He would tell her the truth. She could believe 
all that he would say. Therefore, till he 
came she would remain quiet and try not to 
think at all. This was a wise and dutiful 
resolution ; and it had its reward. Gradually 
thoughts, true or false, oeased to trouble her. 
The warmth and peace of her body began to 
have effect ; and after she had left a message 

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A Startling Proposition 247 

for Adam to come up to her when he returned, she 
sank into a deep sleep. 

Adam returned, exhilarated by his walk, and more 
settled in his mind than he had been for some time. 
He, too, had been feeling the reaction from the 
high pressure which he had been experiencing ever 
since the intentions of Lady Arabella had been 
manifested. like Mimi, he had gone through the 
phase of doubt and inability to believe in the 
reality of things, though it had not affected him to 
the same extent. The idea, however, that his wife 
was suffering ill-effects from her terrible ordeal, 
braced him up, and when he came into her room and 
waked her, he was at his intellectual and nervous 
best. He remained with her till she had quite 
recovered her nerve, and in this condition had gone 
again into a peaceful sleep. Then he sought Sir 
Nathaniel in order to talk over the matter with him. 
He knew that the calm commonsense and self- 
reliance of the old man, as well as his experience, 
would he helpful to them all. Sir Nathaniel had 
by now come to the conclusion that for some reason 
which he did not understand, or indeed try to, Lady 
Arabella had entirely changed her plans, and, for the 
present at all events, was entirely pacific. Later 
on, when the ideas of the morning were in farther 
perspective, he was inclined to attribute her changed 
demeanour to the fact that her influence over 
Edgar Caswall was so far increased as to justify a 
more fixed belief in his submission to her charms. 

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24-8 The Lair of the White Worm 

She had seen him that morning when she visited 
Castra Regis, and they had had a long talk together, 
during which the possibility of their union had been 
discussed. Caswall, without being enthusiastic on 
the subject, had been courteous and attentive ; as 
she had walked back to Diana’s Grove she almost 
congratulated herself on her new settlement in life. 
That the idea was becoming fixed in her mind, and 
was even beginning to materialise, was shown by a 
letter which she wrote later in the day to Adam 
Salton and had sent to him by hand. It ran as 
follows : 

“ Dear Mr Salton, — I wonder if you would 
kindly advise and, if possible, help me in a matter of 
business. I have no aptitude or experience in such 
matters, and am inclined to lean on a friend. 
Briefly, it is this. I have been for some time trying 
to make up my mind to sell this place (Diana’s 
Grove), but so many difficulties have been suggested 
about so doing, that I have put off and put off the 
doing of it till now. The place is entirely my own 
property, and no one has to be consulted with regard 
to what I may wish to do about it. It was bought 
by my late husband, Captain Adolphus Ranger 
March, who then had a residence, The Crest, Appleby. 
He acquired all rights of all kinds, including mining 
and sporting. When he died he left his whole 
property to me. Now my father wants me to live 
with him, and I feel it a call of duty to do so. I am 
his only child, and he is beginning to be an old, a 

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A Startling Proposition 249 

very old man. Moreover, he has certain official 
duties to perform and dignities to support. He is, 
as perhaps you know, Lord Lieutenant of the 
County, and he feels the want of a female relative 
to take the head of the table. I am, he says, the 
only one for the post. He is too old to marry again, 
and, besides help in the duties named, he wants the 
comfort of a companion. I shall feel the leaving 
this place, which has become endeared to me by 
many sacred memories and affections — the recollec- 
tion of many happy days of my young married life 
and the more than happy memories of the man I 
loved and who loved me so much. I should be glad 
to sell the place for any kind of fair price — so long, 
of course, as the purchaser was one I liked and of 
whom I approved. May I say that you yourself 
would be the ideal person. But I dare not hope for 
so much. It strikes me, however, that among your 
Australian friends may be someone who wishes to 
make a settlement in the Old Country, and would, 
in such case, care to fix the spot in one of the most 
historic regions in England, full of romance and 
legend, and with a never-ending vista of historical 
interest — an estate which, though small, is in perfect 
condition and with illimitable possibilities of de- 
velopment, and many doubtful — or unsettled — 
rights which have existed before the time of the 
Romans or even Celts, who were the original pos- 
sessors. In addition, the house is one of the oldest 
in England, and kept up to the dernier cri for the 

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250 The Lair of the White Worm 

last two thousand years. Of all this, immediate 
possession is to be had. My lawyers can provide 
you, or whoever you may suggest, with all business 
and historical details. A word from you of accept- 
ance or refusal is all that is necessary, and we can 
leave details to be thrashed out by our agents. 
Forgive me, won’t you, for troubling you in the 
matter, and believe me, yours very sincerely, 

“ Arab ella March.” 

Adam read this over several times, and then, his 
mind being made up — though not with inflexible 
finality, — he went to Mimi and asked if she had any 
objection. She answered — though after a shudder 
— that she was in this, as in all things, willing to do 
whatever he might wish. She added as he was 
leaving the room : 

“ Dear, I am willing you should judge what is 
best for us both. Be quite free to act as you see 
your duty, and as your inclination calls. We are 
in the hands of God, and He has hitherto guided 
us, and will to His own end.” 

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From his wife’s room Adam Salton went straight to 
the study in the tower, where he knew Sir Nathaniel 
would be at that hour. The old man was alone, 
so, when he had entered in obedience to the “ Come 
in,” which answered his query, he closed, the door 
and came and sat down beside him. He began at 
once : 

“ Do you think, sir, it would be well for me to buy 
Diana’s Grove ? ” 

“ God bless my soul ! ” said the old man, startled, 
“ what on earth would you want to do that for 

“ Well, sir, I have vowed to destroy that White 
Worm, and my being able to do whatever I may 
choose with the Lair would facilitate matters and 
avoid complications.” 

Sir Nathaniel hesitated longer than usual before 
speaking. He was thinking deeply. 

“ Thank you, Adam, for telling me — though, 
indeed, I had almost taken so much for granted. 
But it is well to have accurate knowledge if one 
is going to advise. I think that, for all reasons, you 
would do well to buy the property and to have the 


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252 The Lair of the White Worm 

conveyance settled at once. If you should want 
more money than is immediately convenient, let me 
know, so that I may be your banker.” 

“ Thank you, sir, most heartily ; but, indeed, I 
have more money at immediate call than I can want. 
I am glad you approve.” 

“ More than approve. You are doing a wise 
thing in a financial way. The property is historic, 
and as time goes on it will increase in value. More- 
over, I may tell you something which indeed is only 
a surmise, but whioh, if I am right, will add great 
value to the place.” 

Adam listened. He went on : 

“ Has it ever struck you why the old name, ‘ The 
Lair of the White Worm,’ was given ? Imagine the 
word * white ’ in italics. We know now that there 
was a snake which in early days was called a worm ; 
but why white ? ” 

“ I really don’t know, sir ; I never thought of it. 
I simply took it for granted.” 

“ So did I at first — long ago. But later I puzzled 
my brain for a reason.” 

“ And what was the reason, sir ? ” 

“ Simply and solely because the snake or worm 
teas white.” 

“ How was that ? There must have been a 
reason. Tradition did not give it a colour without 
some reason.” 

“ Evidently what people saw was white. I 
puzzled over it till I saw some light on the subject.” 

Digitized by LjOoq le 

War a l’outrance 


“ Won’t you let me follow your reasoning, sir ? ” 

“ Certainly. We are in the county of Stafford, 
where the great industry of china-burning was 
originated and grew. Stafford owes much of its 
wealth to the large deposits of the rare china clay 
found in it from time to time. These deposits 
became in time pretty well exhausted; but for 
centuries Stafford adventurers looked for the special 
clay as Ohio and Pennsylvania farmers and ex- 
plorers looked for oil. Anyone owning real estate 
on which clay can be discovered strikes a sort of 
gold mine.” 

“ Yes, and then ? ” The young man looked 


The old man continued : 

“ The original ‘ Worm ’ so-called, from which the 
name of the place came, had to find a direct way down 
to the marshes and the mud-holes. Now, the clay 
is easily penetrable, and the original hole probably 
pierced the bed of china clay. When once the way 
was made it became a sort of highway for the Worm. 
But as much movement was necessary to ascend 
such a great and steep height, some of the clay got 
attached to his rough skin by attrition. The down- 
way must have been easy work, and there was little 
attrition ; but the ascent was different, and when 
the monster came to view in the upper world, he 
was fresh from contact with the white clay. Hence 
the name, which has no cryptic significance but only 
fact. Now, if that surmise be true — and I do not 

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254 The Lair of the White Worm 

see why it is not — there must be a deposit of valuable 
clay of immense depth. And there is no reason 
why it is not of equally large superficies.” 

Adam’s comment pleased the old gentleman. 

“ I have it in my bones, sir, that you have struck 
—or rather reasoned out — a great truth,” Sir 
Nathaniel went on cheerfully. “ When the world 
of commerce and manufacture wakes up to the value 
of your find, it will be as well that your title to 
ownership has been perfectly secured. If anyone 
ever deserved such a gain, it is you.” 

With his friend’s aid, Adam secured the property 
without loss of time. Then he went to see his uncle, 
and told him about it. Mr Salton was delighted to 
find his young relative already constructively the 
owner of so fine an estate — and one which gave him 
an important status in the county. 

The next morning, when Adam went in to his host 
in the smoking-room, the latter asked him how he 
purposed to proceed with regard to keeping his vow. 

“ It is a difficult matter which you have under- 
taken. To destroy such a monster is something 
like one of the labours of Hercules, in that not only 
its size and weight and power of using them in 
little-known ways are against you, but the occult 
side is alone an unsurpassable difficulty. The 
Worm is already master of all the elements except 
fire. And I do not see how fire can be used for the 
attack. It has only to sink into the earth in its 
charted way, and you could not overtake it if you 

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War a l’outrance 


had the resources of the biggest coal-mine in 
existence. But I daresay you have mapped out 
some plan in your mind, ,, he added courteously. 

“I have, sir. But, of course, it is purely theo- 
retical and may not stand the test of practice.” 

“ May I know the idea you formed ? ” 

“ Well, sir, this was my argument : This old 

lady is fairly experienced. I suppose, by the way, 
that there is no offence in calling her an old lady, 
considering that she has been disporting herself 
in her own way for some thousands of years. 
So there is no use in trying means that were 
familiar to her at the time of the Flood. I have 
been turning my brain inside out and upside 
down to hit on a new scheme. We hear in Ecclesi- 
astes that there is nothing new under the sun, and 
as she antedated that work, I daresay she is up to 
everything which has been popularly known ever 
since. So at last I decided to try a new adaptation 
of an old scheme. It is about a century old. But 
what is a century to her ? At the time of the 
Chartist trouble an idea spread amongst financial 
circles that an attack was going to be made on the 
Bank of England. Accordingly, the directors of 
that institution consulted many persons who were 
supposed to know what steps should be taken, and 
it was finally decided that the best protection 
against fire — which is what was feared — was not 
water but sand. To carry the scheme into practice 
great store of fine sea-sand — the kind that blows 

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256 The Lair of the White Worm 

about and is used to fill hour-glasses — was provided 
throughout the building, especially at the points 
liable to attack, from which it could be brought 
into use. 

“ I propose to follow the example. I shall 
provide at Diana’s Grove, as soon as it comes into 
my possession, an enormous amount of such sand, 
and shall take an early occasion of pouring it into 
the well-hole, which it will in time choke. Thus 
Lady Arabella, in her guise of the White Worm, 
will find herself cut off from her refuge. The hole 
is a narrow one, and is some hundreds of feet 
deep. The weight of the sand this can contain 
would not in itself be sufficient to obstruct ; but 
the friction of such a body working up against it 
would be tremendous.” 

“ One moment. What use, then, would the sand 
there be for destruction 1 ” 

“ None, directly ; but it would hold the struggling 
body in place till the rest of the scheme came into 

“ And what is the rest ? ” 

“ As the sand is being poured into the well-hole 
at intervals, large quantities of dynamite can also 
be thrown in ! ” 

“ Good. But how would the dynamite explode — 
for, of course, that is what you intend. Would not 
some sort of wire or fuse be required for each parcel 
of dynamite ? ” 

Adam smiled. 

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War a l’outrance 


“ Not in these days, sir. That was proved in the 
second and greater explosion at Hell Gate in New 
York. Before the explosion a hundred thousand 
pounds of dynamite in sealed canisters was placed 
about the miles of workings. At the last a charge 
of gunpowder was fired — a ton or so. And the 
concussion exploded all the dynamite. It was 
most successful. Those who were non-experts in 
high explosives expected that every pane of glass 
in New York would be shattered. But, in reality, 
the explosive did no harm outside the area intended, 
although sixteen acres of rock had been mined and 
only the supporting walls and pillars had been left 
intact. The whole of the rocks which made the 
whirlpool in East River were simply shattered into 
the size of matches.” 

Sir Nathaniel nodded approval. 

“ That seems a good plan — a very excellent one. 
But if it has to tear down so many feet of precipice 
it may wreck the whole neighbourhood.” 

“ And free it for ever from a monster,” added 
Adam, as he left the room to find his wife. 


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Lady Arabella had instructed her solicitors to 
hurry on with the conveyance of Diana’s Grove, so 
no time was lost in letting Adam Salton have formal 
possession of the estate. After his interview with 
Sir Nathaniel, he had taken steps to begin putting 
his plan into action. In order to accumulate the 
necessary amount of fine sea-sand, he had ordered 
the steward to prepare for an elaborate system of 
top-dressing all the grounds. A great heap of the 
chosen sand, which Mr Salton’s carts had brought 
from bays on the Welsh coast, began to grow at the 
back of the Grove. No one seemed to suspect that 
it was there for any purpose other than what had 
been given out. Lady Arabella, who alone could 
have guessed, was now so absorbed in her matri- 
monial pursuit of Edgar Caswall, that she had 
neither time nor inclination for thought extraneous 
to this. Adam, as a member of the Australian 
Committee for Defence and a crack gunner in the 
West Australian Volunteer Artillery, had, of course, 
plenty of opportunities for purchasing and storing 
war material; so he put up a rough corrugated-iron 


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Apprehension 259 

shed behind the Grove, in which he had stored his 
explosives and also a couple of field pieces which 
he thought it well to have near him in case of 
emergency. Even the White Worm would have 
to yield to the explosive shells which they could 
carry. All being ready for his great attempt 
whenever the time should come, he was now content 
to wait, and, in order to pass the time, was content 
to interest himself in other things — even in CaswalTs 
great kite, which still flew from the high tower of 
Gastra Regis. Strange to say, he took a real 
interest, beyond the advantage to his own schemes, 
in Caswall’s childish play with the runners. It 
may, of course, have been that in such puerile 
matters, which in reality did not matter how they 
eventuated, he found a solace, or at any rate a 
relief, from things which were naturally more trying. 
At any rate, however intended, the effect was there, 
and the time passed without any harm being done 
by its passage. The mount of fine sand grew to 
proportions so vast as to puzzle the bailiffs and 
farmers round the Brow. The hour of the intended 
cataclysm was approaching apace. Adam wished 
— but in vain — for an opportunity, which would 
appear to be natural, of visiting Caswall in the 
turret of Castra Regis. At last he got up early one 
morning, and when he saw Lady Arabella moving 
towards the Castle, took his courage a deux mains 
and asked to be allowed to accompany her. She 
was glad, for her own purposes, to comply with his 

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260 The Lair of the White Worm 

wishes. So together they entered, unobserved at 
that early hour, and found their way to the turret- 
room. Caswall was much surprised to see Adam 
come to his house in such a way, but lent himself 
to the task of seeming to be pleased. He played 
the host so well as to deceive even Adam. They 
all went out on the turret roof, where he explained 
to his guests the mechanism for raising and lowering 
the kite, taking also the opportunity of testing the 
movements of the multitudes of birds, how they 
answered almost instantaneously to the lowering or 
raising of the kite. After a little while, Adam’s 
stock of knowledge of this was so increased that 
he was glad that he had ventured on the visit. 

As Lady Arabella walked home with Adam from 
Castra Regis, she asked him if she might make a 
request. Permission having been accorded, she 
explained that before she finally left Diana’s Grove, 
where she had lived so long, she had a desire to 
know the depth of the well-hole. Adam was really 
happy to meet her wishes, not from any sentiment, 
but because he wished to give some valid and 
ostensible reason for examining the passage of the 
Worm, which would obviate any suspicion resulting 
from his being on the premises. This exactly 
suited him, and he made full use of his opportuni- 
ties. He brought from London a Kelvin sounding 
apparatus with an adequate length of piano-wire 
for testing any depth, however great. The wire 
passed over the easily-running wheel, and when this 

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Apprehension 261 

was once fixed over the hole, he was satisfied to 
wait till the most advantageous time to make his 
final experiment. He was absolutely satisfied with 
the way things were going. It seemed to him 
almost an impossibility that there should be any 
hitch or disturbance in his carefully arranged plans. 
It often amazed Adam to see how thoroughly Lady 
Arabella seemed to enjoy the sounding of the well- 
hole, despite the sickening stench exhaled by the 
fissure. Sometimes he would have to go out into 
the outer air to get free from it for a little while. 
It really was not merely an evil smell ; it rather 
seemed to partake of some of the qualities of some 
noxious chemical waste. But she seemed never to 
tire in the work, but went on as though unconscious 
that any disagreeable at all existed. Adam tried 
to find relief by interesting her in the experiments 
with the kite. The top of the Castle, at any rate, 
was free from the foul breath of the pit, and whilst 
he was engaged there he did not feel as if his actual 
life was being imperilled by the noxious smell. 
One thing he longed for, a little artillery practice, 
though indeed there was a solace to him in the 
thought that he was the crack shot in the West 
Australian Artillery. 

In the meantime, affairs had been going quietly 
at Mercy Farm. Lilia, of course, felt lonely at the 
absence of her cousin, but the even tenor of life 
went on for her as for others. After the first shock 

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262 The Lair of the White Worm 

of parting was over, things went back to their 
accustomed routine. In one respect, however, there 
was a marked difference. So long as home con- 
ditions had remained unchanged, Lilia was content 
to put ambition far from her and to settle down to 
the life which had been hers as long as she could 
remember. But Mimi’s marriage set her thinking ; 
naturally, she came to the conclusion that she too 
might have a mate. There was not for her much 
choice — there was little movement in the matri- 
monial direction at the farmhouse. But there was 
a counter-balancing advantage that one man had 
already shown his preference for her in an un- 
mistakable way. True, she did not approve of the 
personality of Edgar Caswall, and his struggle with 
Mimi had frightened her ; but he was unmistakably 
an excellent parti, much better than she could ever 
have any right to expect. This weighs much with 
a woman, and more particularly one of her class. 
So, on the whole, she was content to let things take 
their course, and to abide by the issue. As time 
had gone on, she had reason to secretly believe that 
things did not point to happiness. But here again 
was a state of things purely feminine, which was 
easily got over. The happiness which is, so to 
speak, “ in the bush,” is at best vague, and the 
opposite is more vague still. It is hard for a 
young person, specially of the female sex, to believe 
that things may not turn out eventually as well as 
they had originally promised. She could not shut 

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Apprehension 263 

her eyes to certain disturbing facts, amongst which 
were the existence of Lady Arabella and her growing 
intimacy with Edgar Caswall; his own cold and 
haughty nature, so little in accord with the love 
which is the foundation of a young maid’s dreams 
of happiness ; and, finally, that the companion of her 
youth — her life — would, by her marriage to Adam, 
be taken away to the other side of the earth, 
where she was to make her home. How things 
would of necessity alter if she were to marry her- 
self, she was afraid to think. All told, the prospect 
was not happy for her, and she had a secret longing 
that something might occur to upset the order of 
things as at present arranged. She had a feeling 
that she would be happy to accept whatever might 
happen in consequence of the change. She had 
also a sort of foreknowledge that the time was 
coming with startling rapidity when Mr Caswall 
would come to pay another visit at the farm — a 
thing which she was quite unable to contemplate 
with any unmixed pleasure, more especially as 
Mimi would not be with her to help her in bearing 
the trial. She dreaded lest there should be another 
struggle of wills in which she would have to be the 
shuttlecock. The result of her pondering over the 
subject was that she saw the beginning of the end 
of her happy life, and felt as if she was looking into 
a cold fog in which everything was concealed from 
her. And so she was filled with many unrelieved 

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When Lilia Watford got Edgar Caswall’s note 
asking if he might come to tea on the following 
afternoon, her heart sank within her. If it was only 
for her father’s sake, she must not refuse him or show 
any disinclination which he might construe into in- 
civility. She missed Mimi more than she could say 
or even dared to think. Hitherto, she had always 
looked to her for sympathy, for understanding, 
for loyal support. Now she and all these things, 
and a thousand others — gentle, assuring, supporting 
— were gone. And instead there was a horrible 
aching void. In matters of affection for both sexes, 
and overcoming timorousness for woman, want 
ceases to be a negative and becomes positive. For 
the whole afternoon and evening, and for the follow- 
ing forenoon, poor Lilia’s loneliness grew to be 'a 
positive agony. For the first time she began to 
realise the sense of her loss as though all the previous 
suffering had been merely a preparation. Every- 
thing she looked at, everything she remembered or 
thought of, became laden with poignant memory. 
Then on the top of all was a new sense of dread. 


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The Last Battle 


The reaction from the sense of security, which had 
surrounded her all her life, to a never-quieted appre- 
hension was at times almost more than she could 
bear. It so filled her with fear that she had a 
haunting feeling that she would as soon die as live. 
However, whatever might be her own feelings, duty 
had to be done. And as she had been brought up 
to consider duty as first, she braced herself to go 
through, to the very best of her ability, what was 
before her. Still, the severe and prolonged struggle 
for self-control told upon her. She looked as she 
felt, ill and weak. She was really in a nerveless and 
prostrate condition, with black circles round her 
eyes, pale even to her lips, and with an instinctive 
trembling, which she was quite unable to repress. 
It was for her a sad mischance that Mimi was away, 
for her love would have seen through all obscuring 
causes, and have brought to light the girl’s unhappy 
condition of health. Lilia was utterly unable to do 
anything to escape from the ordeal before her ; but 
her cousin, with the experience of her former 
struggles with Mr Caswall and of the condition in 
which these left her, would have taken steps — 
even peremptory ones, if necessary — to prevent a 

Edgar arrived punctually to the time appointed 
by herself. When Lilia, through the great window, 
saw him approaching the house, her condition of 
nervous upset was pitiable. She braced herself up, 
however, and managed to meet and go on with the 

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266 The Lair of the White Worm 

interview in its preliminary stages without any 
perceptible change in her normal appearance and 
bearing. It had been to her an added terror that 
the black shadow of Oolanga, whom she dreaded, 
should follow hard on his master. A load was 
lifted from her mind when he did not make his usual 
stealthy approach. She had also feared, though in 
lesser degree, lest Lady Arabella should be present 
to make trouble for her as before. The absence of 
her, too, made at least the beginning of the inter- 
view less intolerable. With a woman’s natural 
forethought in a difficult position, she had provided 
the furnishing of the tea-table as a subtle indication 
of the social difference between her and her guest. 
She had chosen the implements of service, as well as 
all the provender set forth, of the humblest kind. 
Instead of arranging the silver teapot and china 
cups, she had set out an earthen teapot such as was 
in common use in the farm kitchen. The same idea 
was carried out in the cups and saucers of thick 
homely delft, and in the cream- jug of similar kind. 
The bread was of simple whole-meal, home-baked. 
The butter was of course good, since she had made it 
herself and the preserves and honey came from her 
own garden. Her face beamed with satisfaction 
when the guest eyed the appointments with a 
supercilious glance. It was all a shock to the poor 
girl herself, who enjoyed offering to a guest the little 
hospitalities possible to her ; but that had to be 
sacrificed with other pleasures. Caswall’s face was 

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The Last Battle 


more set and iron-clad than ever — his piercing eyes 
seemed from the very beginning to look her through 
and through. Her heart quailed when she thought 
of what would follow — of what would be the end, 
when this was only the beginning. As some pro- 
tection, though it could be only of a sentimental 
kind, she brought from her own room the photo- 
graphs of Mimi, of her grandfather, and of Adam 
Salton, whom by now she had grown to look on with 
reliance, as a brother whom she could trust. She 
kept the pictures near her heart, to which her hand 
naturally strayed when her feelings of constraint, 
distrust, or fear became so poignant as to interfere 
with the calm which she felt was necessary to help 
her through her ordeal. At first Edgar Caswall 
was courteous and polite, even thoughtful; but 
after a little while, when he found her resistance to 
his domination grow, he abandoned all forms of 
self-control and appeared in the same dominance 
as he had previously shown. She was prepared, 
however, for this, both by her former experience 
and the natural fighting instinct within her. By 
this means, as the minutes went on, both developed 
the power and preserved the equality in which they 
had begun. 

Without warning or any cogent cause, the psychic 
battle between the two individualities began afresh. 
This time both the positive and negative causes were 
all in the favour of the man. The woman was alone 
and in bad spirits, unsupported ; and nothing at all 

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268 The Lair of the White Worm 

was in her favour except the memory of the two vic- 
torious contests ; whereas the man, though unaided, 
as before, by either Lady Arabella or Oolanga, was 
in full strength, well rested, and in flourishing 
circumstances. It was not, therefore, to be won- 
dered at that his native dominance of character 
had full opportunity of asserting itself. He began 
his preliminary stare with a conscious sense 
of power, and, as it appeared to have immediate 
effect on the girl, he felt an ever-growing con- 
viction of ultimate victory. After a little Lilia’s 
resolution began to flag. She felt that the con- 
test was unequal — that she was unable to put 
forth her best efforts. As she was an unselfish, 
unegotistical person, she could not fight so well in 
her own battle as in that of someone whom she 
loved and to whom she was devoted. Edgar saw 
the relaxing of the muscles of face and brow, and 
the almost collapse of the heavy eyelids which 
seemed tumbling downward in sleep. She made 
gallant efforts to brace her dwindling powers, but 
for a time unsuccessfully. At length there came 
an interruption, which seemed like a powerful 
stimulant. Through the wide window she saw 
Lady Arabella enter the plain gateway of the farm 
and advance towards the hall door. She was clad 
as usual in tight-fitting white, which accentuated 
her thin, sinuous figure. The sight did for Lilia 
what no voluntary effort could. Her eyes flashed, 
and in an instant she felt as though a new 

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The Last Battle 269 

life had suddenly developed within her. Lady 
Arabella’s entry, in her usual unconcerned, haughty, 
supercilious way, heightened the effect, so that 
when the two stood close to each other battle was 
joined. Mr Caswall, too, took new courage from 
her coming, and all his masterfulness and power 
came back to him. His looks, intensified, had more 
obvious effect than had been noticeable that day. 
Lilia seemed at last overcome by his dominance. 
Her face became red and pale — violently red and 
ghastly pale by rapid turns. Her strength seemed 
gone. Her knees collapsed, and she was actually 
sinking on the floor, when to her surprise and joy 
Mimi came into the room, running hurriedly and 
breathing heavily. Lilia rushed to her, and the two 
clasped hands. With that, a new sense of power, 
greater than Lilia had ever seen in her, seemed to 
quicken her cousin. Her further hand swept the 
air in front of Edgar Caswall, seeming to drive him 
backward more and more by each movement, till at 
last he seemed to be actually hurled through the 
door which Mimi’s entrance had left open, and 
fell on his back at full length on the gravel path 
without. Then came the final and complete col- 
lapse of Lilia, who, without a sound, sank down 
pale as death on the floor. 

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Mimi was greatly distressed when she saw her 
cousin lying prone. She had a few times in her life 
seen Lilia on the verge of fainting, but never sense- 
less ; and now she was frightened. She threw herself 
on her knees beside Lilia, and tried, by rubbing her 
hands and such measures commonly known, to 
restore her. But all her efforts were unavailing. 
Lilia still lay white and senseless. In fact, each 
moment she looked worse; her breast, that had 
been heaving with the stress, became still, and 
the pallor of her face grew like marble. At these 
succeeding changes Mimi’s fright grew, till it alto- 
gether mastered her. She succeeded in controlling 
herself only to the extent that she did not scream. 
Lady Arabella followed Caswall, when he had recov- 
ered sufficiently to get up and walk — though 
stumblingly — in the direction of Castra Regis. When 
Mimi was quite alone with Lilia and the need for 
effort had ceased, she felt weak and trembled. In 
her own mind, she attributed it to a sudden change 
in the weather. It was momentarily becoming 
apparent that a storm was coming on. The sky 


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Face to Face 


was covered with flying clouds. The silence was so 
marked as to become a positive quality. There 
was in the air that creaking sound that shows that 
electricity is gathering. For a little while she 
noticed that though the great kite still flew from 
the turret, the birds were beginning to gather as 
they had done when the kite had fallen. But now 
they began to disappear in some mysterious way : 
first singly, and then in increasing numbers till the 
whole world without seemed a widespread desola- 
tion. Something struck her when she had become 
cognizant of this, and with wild affright in her face 
she again stooped over Lilia. 

And then came a wild cry of despair. She 
raised Lilia’s white face and laid it on her warm 
young breast, but all in vain. The cold of the 
white face thrilled through her, and she utterly 
collapsed when it was borne in on her that Lilia 
had passed away. 

The dusk gradually deepened and the shades of 
evening closed in, but she did not seem to notice 
or to care. She sat still on the floor with her arms 
round the body of the girl whom she loved. Darker 
and blacker grew the sky as the coming storm and 
the closing night joined forces. Still she sat on — 
alone — tearless — unable to think. Slowly the even- 
ing merged in night. Mimi did not know how long 
she sat there. Though it seemed to her that ages 
had passed, it could not have been more than a few 
minutes. She suddenly came to herself, and was sur- 

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272 The Lair of the White Worm 

prised to find herself in almost absolute darkness. 
For a while she lay quiet, thinking of the immediate 
past. Lilia’s hand was still in hers, and to her sur- 
prise it was still warm. Somehow this helped her 
consciousness, and without any special act of will she 
stood up. She lit a lamp and looked at her cousin. 
There was no doubt that Lilia was dead ; but the 
death must have been recent. Though her face 
was of set white, the flesh was still soft to the touch. 
When the lamplight fell on her eyes, they seemed to 
look at her with intent — with meaning. She put 
out the light and sat still in the darkness, feeling as 
though she were seeing with Lilia’s eyes. The 
blackness which surrounded her allowed of no dis- 
turbing influence on her own consciousness : the 
gloom of the sky, of which there was an occasional 
glimpse as some flying cloud seemed to carry light 
with it, was in a way tuned to her own gloomy 
thoughts. For her all was dark, both within and 
without. Her hope seemed as dead as her cousin’s 
body. And over and behind all was a sense of 
unutterable loneliness and sorrow. She felt that 
nothing in the world could ever come right again. 
In this state of dark isolation a new resolution came 
to her, and grew and grew until it became a fixed 
definite purpose. She would face Caswall and call 
him to account for his murder of Lilia — that was 
what she called it to herself. She would also take 
steps — she knew not what or how — to avenge the 
part taken by Lady Arabella. In this frame of 

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Face to Face 


mind she lit all the lamps in the room, got water 
and linen from her room, and set about the decent 
ordering of Lilia’s body. This took some time ; but 
when it was finished, she put on her hat and cloak, 
put out the light, and, locking the door behind her, 
set out quietly and at even pace for Castra Regis. 
As she drew near the Castle, she saw no lights except 
those in and around the tower room. The lights 
showed her that Mr Caswall was there, and so she 
entered by the hall door, which as usual was open, 
and felt her way in the darkness up the staircase to 
the lobby of the room. The door was ajar, and the 
light from within showed brilliantly through the 
opening. She saw Edgar Caswall walking restlessly 
to and fro in the room with his hands clasped behind 
his back. She opened the door without knocking, 
and walked right into the room. As she entered, 
he ceased walking, and stared at her in surprise. 
She made no remark, no comment, but continued 
the fixed look which he had seen on her entrance. 

For a time silence reigned, and the two stood 
looking fixedly at each other. Caswall was the 
first to speak. 

“ I had the pleasure of seeing your cousin, Miss 
Watford, to-day.” 

“ Yes,” she answered, her head up, looking him 
straight between the eyes, which made even him 
flinch. “ It was an ill day for her that you did see 

“ Why so ? ” he asked in a weak way. 


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274 The Lair of the White Worm 

" Because it cost her her life. She is dead ! ” 

“ Dead ! Good God ! When did she die ? 
What of ? ” 

“ She died this evening just after you left her.” 

“ Are you sure ? ” 

“ Yes — and so are you — or you ought to be. 
You killed her ! ” 

“ I killed her ! Be careful what you say ! Why 
do you say such a thing ? ” 

“ Because, as God sees us, it is true ; and you 
know it. You came to Mercy Farm on purpose to 
kill her — if you could. And the accomplice of your 
guilt, Lady Arabella March, came for the same 

“ Be careful, woman,” he said hotly. “ Do not 
use such names in that way, or you shall suffer 
for it.” 

“ I am suffering for it — have suffered for it — shall 
suffer for it. Not for speaking the truth as I have 
done, but because you two with devilish malignity 
did my darling to death. It is you and your 
accomplice who have to dread punishment, not I.” 

“ Take care ! ” he said again. 

“ Oh, I am not afraid of you or your accomplice,” 
she answered spiritedly. “ I am content to stand 
by every word I have said, every act I have done. 
Moreover, I believe in God’s justice. I fear not 
the grinding of His mills. If needed, I shall set the 
wheels in motion myself. But you don’t care even 
for God, or believe in Him. Your god is your great 

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Face to Face 


kite, which cows the birds of a whole district. But 
be sure that His hand, when it rises, always falls at 
the appointed time. His voice speaks in thunder, 
and not only for the rich who scorn their poorer 
neighbours. The voices that call on Him come from 
the furrow and the workshop, from grinding toil and 
unrelieved stress and strain. Those voices He 
always hears, however frail and feeble they may be. 
His thunder is their echo, His lightning the menace 
that is borne. Be careful ! I say even as you have 
spoken. It may be that your name is being called 
even at this very moment at the Great Assize. 
Repent while there is still time. Happy you if you 
may be allowed to enter those mighty halls in the 
company of the pure-souled angel whose voice has 
only to whisper one word of justice and you thence- 
forth disappear for ever into everlasting torment.” 

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Fob the last two days most of those concerned had 
been especially busy. Adam, leaving his wife free 
to follow her own desires with regard to Lilia and 
her grandfather, had busied himself with filling the 
well-hole with the fine sand prepared for the purpose, 
taking care to have lowered at stated intervals 
quantities of the store of dynamite so as to be ready 
for the final explosion. He had under his immediate 
supervision a corps of workmen, and was assisted 
in their superintendency by Sir Nathaniel, who had 
come over for the purpose and was staying at 
Lesser Hill. Mr Salton, too, showed much interest 
in the job, and was eternally coming in and out, 
nothing escaping his observation. Lady Arabella 
was staying at her father’s place in the Peak. Her 
visit to Mercy Farm was unknown to any one but 
herself and Mimi, and she had kept her own counsel 
with regard to its unhappy conclusion. She had, 
in fact, been at some pains to keep the knowledge 
from Edgar. The Kelvin sounding apparatus was 
in good working order, and it seemed to be a per- 
petual pleasure to her, despite the horrible effluvium, 


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Eritis Sicut Deus 


to measure again and again the depth of the well- 
hole. This appeared to have some strange fasci- 
nation for her which no one employed in the work 
shared. When any of the workmen made com- 
plaint of the stench to which they were subjected, 
she did not hesitate to tell them roundly that she 
believed it was a “ try on ” on their part to get an 
immoderate quantity of strong drink. Naturally, 
Adam did not hear of Lilia’s death. There was no 
one to tell him except Mimi, who did not wish to 
give him pain, and who, in addition, was so 
thoroughly occupied with many affairs, some of 
which we are aware of, that she lacked the op- 
portunity of broaching the matter — even to her 

When Mimi returned to Sir Nathaniel’s after her 
interview with Edgar Caswall, she felt the new 
freedom as to her movements. Since her marriage 
to Adam and their coming to stay at Doom Tower, 
she had been always fettered by fear of the horrible 
monster at Diana’s Grove. But now she dreaded 
it no longer. She had accepted the fact of its 
assuming at will the form of Lady Arabella and 
vice versa , and had been perhaps equally afraid 
whichever form it took. But now she did not 
concern herself about one or the other. True, she 
wanted to meet Lady Arabella, but this was for 
militant purposes. She had still to tax and upbraid 
her for her part in the unhappiness which had been 
wrought on Lilia and for her share in her death. 

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278 The Lair of the White Worm 

As for the monster, it had been last seen in the 
channel, forging a way out to sea, and, so far as she 
knew or cared, had not been seen since and might 
never be seen again. Now she could once more 
wander at will along the breezy heights of the 
Brow or under the spreading oaks of Diana’s Grove 
unfearful of the hateful presence of either the Lady 
or her alter ego, the Worm. She dared not compare 
what the friace had been to her before the hateful 
revelation, but she could — and she thanked God 
for that — enjoy the beauties as they were, what 
they had been, and might be again were they once 
free. When she left Castra Regis after her inter- 
view with Edgar Caswall, she walked home to 
Doom, making a long detour along the top of the 
Brow. She wanted time to get calm and be once 
more master of herself before she should meet her 
husband. Her nerves were in a raw condition, and 
she felt more even than at first the shock of her 
cousin’s death, which still completely overwhelmed 
her. The walk did her good. In the many 
changes of scene and the bracing exercise, she felt 
her nervous strength as well as her spirits restored. 
She was almost her old self again when she had 
entered the gates of Doom and saw the lights of 
her own room shining out into the gloom. 

When she entered her own room, her first act 
was to rim to the window and throw an eager look 
round the whole circle of sight. This was instruc- 
tive — an unconscious effort to clear her mind of any 

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Eritis Sicut Deus 


apprehension that the Worm was still at hand 
rearing its vast height above the trees. A single 
glance satisfied her that at any rate the Worm in 
proprid persond was not visible. So she sat down 
for a little in the window-seat and enjoyed the 
pleasure of full view from which she had been so 
long cut off. The maid who waited on her had told 
her that Mr Salton had not yet returned home, so 
that she felt free to enjoy the luxury of peace and 

As she looked out of the window of the high 
tower, which she had opened, she saw something 
thin and white move along the avenue far below 
her. She thought she recognised the figure of 
Lady Arabella, and instinctively drew back behind 
the drawn curtain. When she had ascertained by 
peeping out several times that the Lady did not 
see her, she watched more carefully, all her in- 
stinctive hatred of Lady Arabella flooding back at 
the sight of her. Lady Arabella was moving 
swiftly and stealthily, looking back and around her 
at intervals as if she feared to be followed. This 
opportunity of seeing her, as she did not wish to 
be seen, gave Mimi an idea that she was up to no 
good, and so she determined to seize the occasion 
of watching her in more detail. Hastily putting 
on a dark cloak and hat, she ran downstairs and 
out into the avenue. Lady Arabella had moved, 
but the sheen of her white dress was still to be 
seen among the young oaks around the gateway. 

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280 The Lair of the White Worm 

Keeping herself in shadow, Mimi followed, taking 
care not to come so close as to awake the other’s 
suspicion. The abnormal blackness of the Bky 
aided her, and, herself unnoticed and unnoticeable, 
she watched her quarry pass along the road in the 
direction of Oastra Regis. 

She followed on steadily through the gloom of 
the trees, depending on the glint of the white dress 
to keep her right. The little wood began to thicken, 
and presently, when the road widened and the trees 
grew closer to each other though they stood farther 
back, she lost sight of any indication of her where- 
abouts. Under the present conditions it was im- 
possible for her to do any more, so, after waiting 
for a while, still hidden in the shadow to see if she 
could catch another glimpse of the white frock, 
she determined to go on slowly towards Castra 
Regis and trust to the chapter of accidents to pick 
up the trail again. She went on slowly, taking 
advantage of every obstacle and shadow to keep 
herself concealed. At last she entered on the 
grounds of the Castle at a spot from which the 
windows of the turret were dimly visible, without 
having seen again any sign of Lady Arabella. In 
the exceeding blackness of the night, the light in 
the turret chamber seemed by comparison bright, 
though it was indeed dim, for Edgar Caswall had 
only a couple of candles alight. The gloom seemed 
to suit his own state of mind. 

All the time that she, Mimi Salton, had been 

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Eritis Sicut Deus 281 

coming from Doom, following as she thought Lady 
Arabella March, she was in reality being followed 
by Lady Arabella, who, having the power of seeing 
in the darkness, had caught sight of her leaving 
Doom Tower and had never again lost sight of 
her. It was a rarely complete case of the hunter 
being hunted, and, strange to say, in a manner 
true of both parties to the chase. For a time 
Mimi’s many turnings, with the natural obstacles 
that were perpetually intervening, kept Mimi dis- 
appearing and reappearing ; but when she was close 
to Castra Regis there was no more possibility of 
concealment, and the strange double following 
went swiftly on. At this period of the chase, the 
disposition of those concerned was this : Mimi, 
still searching in vain for Lady Arabella, was 
ahead ; and close behind her, though herself 
keeping well concealed, came the other, who saw 
everything as well as though it were daylight. The 
natural darkness of the night and the blackness of 
the storm-laden sky had no difficulties for her. 
When she saw Mimi come close to the hall door of 
Castra Regis and ascend the steps, she followed. 
When Mimi entered the dark hall and felt her way 
up the still darker staircase, still, as she believed, 
following Lady Arabella, the latter still kept on 
her way. When they had reached the lobby of the 
turret-rooms, neither searched actively for the 
other, each being content to go on, believing that 
the object of her search was ahead of her. 

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282 The Lair of the White Worm 

Edgar Caswall sat thinking in the gloom of the 
great room, occasionally stirred to curiosity when 
the drifting clouds allowed a little light to fall from 
the storm-swept sky. But nothing really interested 
him now. Since he had heard of Lilia’s death, the 
gloom of his poignant remorse, emphasised by 
Mimi’s upbraiding, had made more hopeless even 
the darkness of his own cruel, selfish, saturnine 
nature. He heard no sound. In the first place, 
his normal faculties seemed benumbed by his in- 
ward thought. Then the sounds made by the two 
women were in themselves difficult to hear. Mimi 
was light of weight, and in the full tide of her youth 
and strength her movements were as light and as 
well measured and without waste as an animal of 
the forest. 

As to Lady Arabella, her movements were at all 
times as stealthy and as silent as those of her 
pristine race, the first thousands of whose years was 
occupied, not in direct going to and fro, but on 
crawling on their bellies without notice and without 

Mimi, when she came to the door, still a little 
ajar, gave with the instinct of decorum a light 
tap. So light it was that it did not reach Caswall’s 
ears. Then, taking her courage in both hands, she 
boldly but noiselessly pushed the door and entered. 
As she did so, her heart sank, for now she was face 
to face with a difficulty which had not, in her state 
of mental perturbation, occurred to her. 

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The storm which was coming was already making 
itself manifest, not only in the wide scope of nature, 
but in the hearts and natures of human beings. 
Electrical disturbance in the sky and the air is 
reproduced in animals of all kinds, and particularly 
in the highest type of them all — the most receptive — 
the most electrical themselves — the most recupera- 
tive of their natural qualities, the widest sweeping 
with their net of interests. So it was with Edgar 
Caswall, despite his selfish nature and coldness of 
blood. So it was with Mimi Salton, despite her 
unselfish, unchanging devotion for those she loved. 
So it was even with Lady Arabella, who, under the 
instincts of a primeval serpent, carried the ever- 
varying indestructible wishes and customs of woman- 
hood, which is always old — and always new. Edgar, 
after he had once turned his eyes on Mimi, resumed 
his apathetic position and sullen silence. Mimi 
quietly took a seat a little way apart from Edgar, 
whence she could look on the progress of the coming 
storm and study its appearance throughout the 
whole visible circle of the neighbourhood. She was 


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284 The Lair of the White Worm 

in brighter and better spirits than she had been all 
day — or for many days past. Lady Arabella tried 
to efface herself behind the now open door. At 
every movement she appeared as if trying to 
squeeze herself into each little irregularity in the 
flooring beside her. Without, the clouds grew 
thicker and blacker as the storm-centre came 
closer. As yet the forces, from whose linking the 
lightning springs, were held apart, and the silence 
of nature proclaimed the calm before the storm. 
Caswall felt the effect of the gathering electric force. 
A sort of wild exultation grew upon him such as he 
had sometimes felt just before the breaking of a 
tropical storm. As he became conscious of this he 
instinctively raised his head and caught the eye of 
Mimi. He was in the grip of an emotion greater 
than himself ; in the mood in which he was he felt 
the need upon him of doing some desperate deed. 
He was now absolutely reckless, and as Mimi was 
associated with him in the memory which drove 
him on, he wished that she too should be engaged 
in this enterprise. Of course, he had no knowledge 
of the proximity of Lady Arabella. He thought 
that he was alone, far removed from all he knew 
and whose interests he shared — alone with the 
wild elements, which were being lashed to fury, and 
with the woman who had struggled with him and 
vanquished him, and on whom he would shower, 
though in secret, the full measure of his hate. 

The fact was that Edgar Caswall was, if not mad, 

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On the Turret Roof 285 

something akin to it. His always eccentric nature, 
fed by the dominance possible to one in his condi- 
tion in life, had made him oblivious to the relative 
proportions of things. That way madness lies. 
A person who is either unable or unwilling to dis- 
tinguish true proportions is apt to get further afield 
intellectually with each new experience. From 
inability to realise the true proportions of many 
things, there is but one step to a fatal confusion. 
Madness in its first stage — monomania — is a lack of 
proportion. So long as this is general, it is not always 
noticeable, for the uninspired onlooker is without 
the necessary base of comparison. The realisation 
only comes with an occasion, when the person in 
the seat of judgment has some recognised standard 
with which to compare the chimerical ideas of the 
disordered brain. Monomania gives the oppor- 
tunity. Men do not usually have at hand a number, 
or even a choice of standards. It is the one thing 
which is contrary to our experience which sets us 
thinking; and when once the process of thought 
is established it becomes applicable to all the 
ordinary things of life ; and then discovery of the 
truth is only a matter of time. It is because im- 
perfections of the brain are usually of a character 
or scope which in itself makes difficult a differentia- 
tion of irregularities that discovery is not usually 
made quickly. But in monomania the errant 
faculty protrudes itself in a way that may not be 
denied. It puts aside, obscures, or takes the place 

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286 The Lair of the White Worm 

of something else — just as the head of a pin placed 
before the centre of the iris will block out the whole 
scope of vision. The most usual form of mono- 
mania has commonly the same beginning as that 
from which Edgar Caswall suffered — an overlarge 
idea of self-importance. Alienists, who study the 
matter exactly, probably know more of human 
vanity and its effects than do ordinary men. Their 
knowledge of the intellectual weakness of an indivi- 
dual seldom comes quickly. It is in itself an intel- 
lectual process, and, if the beginnings can at all be 
traced, the cure — if cure be possible — has already 
begun. Caswall’ s mental disturbance was not hard 
to identify. Every asylum is full of such cases — 
men and women who, naturally selfish and egotisti- 
cal, so appraise to themselves their own importance 
that every other circumstance in life becomes 
subservient to it. The declension is rapid. The 
disease supplies in itself the material for self-magni- 
fication. The same often modest, religious, un- 
selfish individual who has walked perhaps for years 
in all good ways, passing stainless through tempta- 
tions which wreck most persons of abilities superior 
to his own, develops — by a process so gradual that at 
its first recognition it appears almost to be sudden 
— into a self -engrossed, lawless, dishonest, cruel, 
unfaithful person who cannot be trusted any more 
than he can be restrained. When the same decad- 
ence attacks a nature naturally proud , and selfish 
and vain, and lacking both the aptitude and habit 

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On the Turret Roof 287 

of self-restraint, the development of the disease is 
more swift, and ranges to farther limits. It is such 
persons who become imbued with the idea that they 
have the attributes of the Almighty — even that they 
themselves are the Almighty. Vanity, the begin- 
ning, is also the disintegrating process and also the 
melancholy end. A close investigation shows that 
there is no new factor in this chaos. It is all exact 
and logical. It is only a development and not a 
re-creation : the germs were there already ; all that 
has happened is that they have ripened and perhaps 
fructified. CaswalTs was just such a case. He did 
not become cruel or lawless or dishonest or unfaith- 
ful ; those qualities were there already, wrapped up 
in one or other of the many disguises of selfishness. 

Character — of whatever kind it be, of whatever 
measure, either good or bad — is bound in the long 
run to justify itself according to its lights. The 
whole measure of drama is in the development of 
character. Grapes do not grow on thorns nor figs 
on thistles. This is true of every phase of nature, 
and, above all, true of character which is simply 
logic in episodical form. The hand that fashioned 
Edgar Caswall’s physiognomy in aquiline form, and 
the mind that ordained it, did not err. Up to the 
last he maintained the strength and the weakness 
of aquiline nature. And in this final hour, when the 
sands were running low, he, his intentions, and his 
acts — the whole variations and complexities of his 
individuality — were in essence the very same as 

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288 The Lair of the White Worm 

those which marked him in his earliest days. He 
had ripened ; that was all. 

Mimi had a suspicion — or rather, perhaps, an 
intuition — of the true state of things when she heard 
him speak, and at the same time noticed the abnor- 
mal flush on his face, and his rolling eyes. There 
was a certain want of fixedness of purpose which 
she had certainly not noticed before — a quick, 
spasmodic utterance which belongs rather to the 
insane than to those of intellectual equilibrium. 
She was a little astonished, not only by his thoughts 
but by his staccato way of expressing them. The 
manner remained almost longer in her memory than 
the words. When, later, thinking the matter over, 
she took into account certain matters of which at 
the time she had not borne in mind : the odd hour 
of her visit — it was now after midnight — close on 
dawn ; the wild storm which was now close at hand ; 
the previous nervous upset, of her own struggle with 
him, of his hearing the news of Lilia’s death, of 
her own untimely visit so fraught with unpleasant 
experiences and memories. When in a calmer state 
she weighed all these things in the balance, the doing 
so not only made for toleration of errors and excesses, 
but also for that serener mental condition in which 
correctness of judgment is alone attainable. 

As Caswall rose up and began to move to the door 
leading to the turret stair by which the roof was 
reached, he said in a peremptory way, whose tone 
alone made her feel defiant : 

Digitized by 


On the Turret Roof 289 

“ Gome ! I want you.” 

She instinctively drew back — she was not accus- 
tomed to such words, more especially to such tone. 
Her answer was indicative of a new contest : 

“ Where to ? Why should I go ? What for ? ” 

He did not at once reply — another indication of 
his overwhelming egotism. He was now fast ap- 
proaching the attitude of conscious Final Cause. 
She repeated her questions. He seemed a little 
startled ; but habit reasserted itself, and he spoke 
without thinking the words which were in his heart. 

“ I want you, if you will be so good, to come with 
me to the turret roof. I know I have no right to 
ask you, or to expect you to come. It would be a 
kindness to me. I am much interested in certain 
experiments with the kite which would be, if not a 
pleasure, at least a novel experience to you. You 
would see something not easily seen otherwise. 
The experience may be of use some time, though I 
cannot guarantee that.” 

“ I will come,” she answered simply ; Edgar 
moved in the direction of the stair, she following 
close behind him. 

She did not like to be left alone at such a height, 
in such a place, in the darkness, with a storm about 
to break. Of himself she had no fear ; all that had 
been seemed to have passed away with her two 
victories over him in the struggle of wills. More- 
over, the more recent apprehension — that of his 
madness — had also ceased. In the conversation of 


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290 The Lair of the White Worm 

the last few minutes he seemed so rational, so clear, 
so unaggressive, that she no longer saw reason even 
for doubt. So satisfied was she that even when he 
put out a hand to guide her to the steep, narrow 
stairway, she took it without thought in the most 
conventional way. Lady Arabella, crouching in 
the lobby behind the door, heard every word that 
had been said, and formed her own opinion of it. 
It was evident to her that there had been some 
rapprochement between the two, who had so lately 
been hostile to each other, and that made her 
furiously angry. It was not jealousy, but only that 
Mimi was interfering with her plans. She had by 
now made certain of her capture of Edgar Caswall, 
and she could not tolerate even the lightest and 
most contemptuous fancy on his part which might 
divert him from the main issue. When she became 
aware that he wished Mimi to come with him to 
the roof and that she had acquiesced, her rage got 
beyond bounds. She became oblivious to any 
danger that might be in the visit to such an exposed 
place at such a time, and to all lesser considerations, 
and made up her mind to forestall them. By now 
she knew well the turns and difficulties of the turret 
stair, and could use it in darkness as well as in 
light, — this, independent of her inherited ophidian 
power of seeing without light. When she had come 
to the lobby this evening, she had seen that the 
steel wicket, usually kept locked, that forbade 
entrance on the stairway, had been left open. So, 

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On the Turret Roof 291 

when she was aware of the visit of the two others 
to the roof, she stealthily and noiselessly crept 
through the wicket, and, ascending the stair, 
stepped out on the roof. It was bitterly cold, for 
the fierce gusts of the storm which swept round 
the turret drove in through every unimpeded way, 
whistling at the sharp comers and singing round 
the trembling flagstaff. The kite-string and the 
wire which controlled the runners made a concourse 
of weird sounds which somehow, perhaps from the 
violence which surrounded them, acting on their 
length, resolved themselves into some kind of 
harmony — a fitting accompaniment to the tragedy 
which seemed about to begin. 

Lady Arabella scorned all such thoughts, putting 
them behind her as she did fear. Still moving 
swiftly and stealthily, she glided across the stone 
roof and concealed herself behind one of the machi- 
colations of the tower. She was already safely en- 
sconced when the heads of Edgar and Mimi, whom 
he guided, appeared against the distant sky-line 
as they came up the steep stair. Mimi’g heart 
beat heavily. Just before leaving the turret- 
chamber she had got a fright which she could not 
shake off. The lights of the room had momentarily 
revealed to her, as they passed out, Edgar's face 
concentrated as it did whenever he intended to use 
his mesmeric power. Now the black eyebrows 
made a thick line across his face, under which his 
eyes shone and glittered ominously. Mimi recog- 

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2 92 The Lair of the White Worm 

nised the danger, and assumed the defiance that 
had twice already served her so well. She had a 
fear that the circumstances and the place were 
against her, and she wanted to be forearmed. 

The sky was now somewhat lighter than it had 
been. Either there was lightning afar off, whose 
reflections were carried by the rolling clouds, or 
else the gathered force, though not yet breaking 
into lightning, had an incipient power of light. It 
seemed to affect both the man and the woman. 
Edgar seemed altogether under its influence. His 
spirits were boisterous, his mind exalted. He was 
now at his worst ; madder even than he had been 
earlier in the night. Mimi, trying to keep as far 
from him as possible, moved across the stone floor 
of the turret roof, and found a niche which concealed 
her. It was not far from Lady Arabella’s place of 
hiding, but the angle of the machicolation stood 
between them, separating them. It was fortunate for 
Mimi that she could not see the other’s face. Those 
burning eyes concentrated in deadly hate would 
have certainly unnerved her just as she wanted 
the full of her will power to help her in extremity. 

Edgar, left thus alone on the centre of the turret 
roof, found himself altogether his own master in 
a way which tended to increase his madness. He 
knew that Mimi was close at hand, though he had 
lost sight of her. He spoke loudly, and the sound 
of his own voice, though it was carried from him 
on the sweeping wind as fast as the words were 

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On the Turret Roof 


spoken, seemed to exalt him still more. Even the 
raging of the elements round him seemed to add 
to his exaltation. To him it seemed that these 
manifestations were obedient to his own will. He 
had reached the sublime of his madness ; he was 
now in his own mind actually the Almighty, and 
whatever might happen would be the direct 
carrying out of his own commands. As he could 
not see Mimi nor fix whereabout she was, he shouted 
loudly : 

“ Come to me. You shall see now what you are 
despising, what you are warring against. All that 
you see is mine — the darkness as well as the light. 
I tell you that I am greater than any other who is, 
or was, or shall be. Look you now and learn. 
When the Master of Evil took Him up on a high 
place and showed Him all the kingdoms of the earth, 
he was doing what he thought no other could do. 
He was wrong. He forgot Me. You shall see. 
I shall send you light to see by. I shall send it up 
to the very ramparts of heaven. A light so great 
that it shall dissipate those black clouds that are 
rushing up and piling around us. Look ! Look ! 
At the very touch of my hand that light springs 
into being and mounts up — and up — and up ! ” 

He made his way whilst he wad speaking to the 
corner of the turret whence flew the giant kite, 
and from which the runners ascended. Mimi 
looked on, appalled and afraid to speak lest she 
should precipitate some calamity. Within the 

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294 The Lair of the White Worm 

machioolated niche Lady Arabella, quiet and still 
as death, cowered in a paroxysm of fear. Edgar 
took from his pocket a small wooden box, through 
a hole in which the wire of the runner ran. This 
evidently set some machinery in motion, for a 
sound as of whirring came. From one side of the 
box floated what looked like a piece of stiff ribbon, 
which snapped and crackled as the wind took it. 
For a few seconds Mimi saw it as it rushed along 
the sagging line to the kite. When close to it, 
there was a loud crack, like a minor explosion, 
and a sudden light appeared to issue from every 
chink in the box. Then a quick flame flashed 
along the snapping ribbon, which glowed with an 
intense light — a light so great that the whole of 
the countryside around stood out against the back- 
ground of black driving clouds. For a few seconds 
the light remained, then suddenly disappeared in 
the blackness around. That light had no mystery 
for either Mimi or Lady Arabella, both of whom 
had often seen manifestations of the same thing. 
It was simply a magnesium light which had been 
fired by the mechanism within the box carried up 
to the kite. Edgar was in a state of tumultuous 
excitement, shouting and yelling at the top of his 
voice and dancing about like a violent lunatic. 
But the others were quiet, Mimi nestling in her 
niche and avoiding observation as well as she could. 
Once the sagging string, caught in a wind-flurry, 
was thrown across the back of her hand. Its 

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On the Turret Roof 295 

trembling had an extraordinary effect on her, 
bracing her up to the full of her emotional power. 
She felt, on the instant, that the spirit of Lilia was 
beside her, and that it was Lilia’s touch which she 
had felt. Lady Arabella had evidently made up 
her mind what to do ; the inspiration how to do 
it came to her with the sight of Mimi’s look of 
power evident to her ophidian sight. On the in- 
stant she glided through the darkness to the wheel 
whereon the string of the kite was wound. With 
deft fingers she found where the wheel of the Kelvin 
sounding apparatus was fixed to it, and, unshipping 
this, took it with her, reeling out the wire as she 
went, and so keeping, in a way, in touch with the kite. 
Then she glided swiftly to the wicket, through which 
she passed, locking the gate behind her as she went. 
Down the turret stair she flew quickly, letting the 
wire run from the wheel which she carried carefully, 
and, passing out of the hall door, ran down the 
avenue with all her speed. She soon reached her 
own gate, ran down the avenue, and with her small 
key opened the iron door leading to the atrium. 
The fine wire passed easily under the door. In the 
room beside the atrium, where was the well-hole, 
she sat down panting, unknown to all, for in the 
coming she had escaped observation. She felt that 
she was excited, and in order to calm herself began 
a new form of experiment with regard to her obser- 
vation of the hole. She fastened the lamp which 
was ready for lowering to the end of the wire, whose 

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296 The Lair of the White Worm 

end came into the room. Then she began quietly 
and methodically lowering the two by means of 
the Kelvin sounding apparatus, intending to fire 
at the right time the new supply of magnesium 
ribbon which she had brought from the turret. 
She felt well satisfied with herself. All her plans 
were maturing, or had already matured. Castra 
Regis was within her grasp. The woman whose 
interference she feared, Lilia Watford, was dead. 
Diana’s Grove and all its hideous secrets was now 
in other hands, an accident to whom would cause 
her no concern. Truly, all was well, and she felt 
that she might pause a while and rest. She lay 
down on a sofa close to the well-hole so that she 
oould see it without moving when she had lit the 
lamp. In a state of blissful content she sank into 
a gentle sleep. 

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When Lady Arabella had gone away in her usual 
noiseless fashion, the two others remained for a while 
quite still in their places on the turret roof : Caswall 
because he had nothing to say and could not think of 
anything ; Mimi because she had much to say and 
wished to put her thoughts in order. For quite a 
while — which seemed interminable — silence reigned 
between them. At last Mimi made a beginning — 
she had made up her min d how to act. 

“ Mr Caswall,” she said loudly, so as to make 
sure of being heard through the blustering of the 
wind and the perpetual cracking of the electricity. 

Caswall said something in reply which she under- 
stood to be : “I am listening.” 

His words were carried away on the storm as 
they came from his mouth. However, one of her 
objects was effected : she knew now exactly where- 
about on the roof he was. So she moved close to 
the spot before she spoke again, raising her voice 
almost to a shout : 

“ The wicket is shut. Please to open it. I can’t 
get out.” 


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298 The Lair of the White Worm 

As she spoke she was quietly fingering the 
revolver which Adam had given to her when she 
got back to Liverpool, and which now lay in her 
breast. She felt that she was caged like a rat in a 
trap, but did not mean to be taken at a disadvantage, 
whatever happened. By this time Caswall also 
was making up his mind what his own attitude 
would be. He, too, felt trapped, and all the brute 
in him rose to the emergency. He never had 
been counted — even by himself — as chivalrous ; 
but now, when he was at a loss, even decency of 
thought had no appeal for him. In a voice which 
was raucous and brutal — much like that which is 
heard when a wife is being beaten by her husband in 
a slum — he hissed out, his syllables cutting through 
the roaring of the storm : 

“ I didn’t let you in here. You came of your own 
accord — without permission, or even askingit. Now 
you stay or go as you choose. But you must 
manage it for yourself ; I’ll have nothing to do 
with it.” 

She answered, woman-like, with a query : 

“ It was Lady Arabella who shut and locked it. 
Was it by your wish ? ” 

“ I had no wish one way or the other. I didn’t 
even know that she was here.” 

Then suddenly he added : “ How did you know it ? ” 
“ By her white dress and the green gleam of her 
eyes. Her figure is not hard to distinguish, even in 
the dark.” 

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The Breaking of the Storm 299 

He gave some kind of snort of disagreement. 
Taking additional umbrage at this, she went on in 
words which she thought would annoy him most : 

“ When a woman is gifted with a figure like hers, 
it is easy to tell her even in a rope-walk or a bundle 
of hop-poles.” 

He even improved on her affronting speech : 

“ Every woman in the eastern counties seems 
to think that she has a right to walk into my house 
at any hour of the day or night, and into every 
room in the house whether I am there or not. I 
suppose I’ll have to get watch-dogs and police to 
keep them out, and spring guns and man-traps to 
deal with them if they get in.” He went on more 
roughly as if he had been wound up to it. 

“ Well, why don’t you go ? ” 

Her answer was spoken with dangerous suavity : 
“ I am going. Blame yourself if you do not like 
the time and manner of it. I daresay Adam — my 
husband — Mr Salton, will have a word to say to you 
about it ! ” 

“ Let him say, and be damned to him, and to you 
too ! I’ll show you a light. You shan’t be able 
to say that you could not see what you were doing.” 
As he spoke he was lighting another piece of the 
magnesium ribbon, which made a blinding glare in 
which everything was plainly discernible, down to 
the smallest detail. This exactly suited her. She 
took accurate note of the wicket and its fastening 
before the glare had died away. She took her revolver 

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300 The Lair of the White Worm 

out and had fired into the lock, which was shivered 
on the instant, the pieces flying round in all direc- 
tions, but happily without causing hurt to anyone. 
Then she pushed the wicket open and ran down the 
narrow stair and so to the hall door. Opening this 
also, she ran down the avenue, never lessening her 
speed till she stood outside the door of Doom Tower. 
The household was all awake, and the door was 
opened at once on her ringing. 

She asked : “ Is Mr Salton in ? ” 

“ He has just come in, a few minutes ago. He has 
gone up to the study.” 

She ran upstairs at once and joined him. He 
seemed relieved when he saw her, but scrutinised 
her face keenly. He saw that she had been in some 
concern, so led her over to the sofa in the window 
and sat down beside her. 

“ Now, dear, tell me all about it ! ” he said. 

She rushed breathlessly through all the details 
of her adventure on the turret roof. Adam listened 
attentively, helping her all he could, both positively 
and negatively, nor embarrassing her by any ques- 
tioning or surprise. His thoughtful silence was a 
great help to her, for it allowed her to collect and 
organise her thoughts. When she had done he gave 
her his story without unnecessary delay : 

“ I kept out of your way so as to leave you un- 
hampered in anything you might wish to attend to. 
But when the dark came and you were still out, I was 
a little frightened about you. So I went to where 

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The Breaking of the Storm 301 

I thought you might be. First to Mercy ; but no 
one there knew where you were. Then to Diana’s 
Grove. There, too, no one could tell me anything. 
But when the footman who opened the door went 
to the atrium, looking if you were about, I caught 
a glimpse of the room where the well-hole is. Beside 
the hole, and almost over it, was a sofa on which lay 
Lady Arabella quietly sleeping. So I went on to 
Castra Regis, but no one there had seen you either. 
When that magnesium light flared out from close 
to the kite, I thought I saw you on the turret. I 
tried to ascend, and actually got to the wicket at 
foot of the turret stair. But that was locked, so I 
turned back and went round the Brow on the chance 
of meeting or seeing you ; then I came on here. I 
only knew you had come home when Braithwait came 
up to the study to tell me. I must go and see Cas- 
wall to-morrow or next day to hear what he has to 
say on the subject. You won’t mind, will you ? ” 
She answered quickly, a new fear in her heart : 

“ Oh no, dear, I wouldn’t and won’t mind any- 
thing you think it right to do. But, dear, for my 
sake, don’t have any quarrel with Mr Caswall. I 
have had too much trial and pain lately to wish it 
increased by any anxiety regarding you.” 

“ You shall not, dear — if I can help it — please 
God,” he said solemnly, and he kissed her. 

Then, in order to keep her interested so that she 
might forget the fears and anxieties that had dis- 
turbed her, he began to talk over details of her 

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302 The Lair of the White Worm 

adventure, making shrewd comments which at- 
tracted and held her attention. Presently, inter 
alia, he said : 

“ That’s a dangerous game Caswall is up to. 
It seems to me that that young man — though 
he doesn’t appear to know it — is riding for a 
fall I ” 

“ How, dear ? I don’t understand.” 

“ Kite flying on a night like this from a place like 
the tower of Castra Regis is, to say the least of it, 
dangerous. It is not merely courting death or other 
accident from lightning, but it is bringing the 
lightning into where he lives.” 

“ Oh, do explain to me, Adam. I am very 
ignorant on such subjects.” 

“ Well, you see, Mimi, the air all around is 
charged and impregnated with electricity, which 
is simply undeveloped lightning. Every cloud 
that is blowing up here — and they all make for the 
highest point — is bound to develop into a flash of 
lightning. That kite is up in the air about a mile 
high and is bound to attract the lightning. Its 
very string makes a road for it on which to travel 
to earth. When it does come, it will strike the top 
of the tower with a weight a hundred times greater 
than a whole park of artillery. It will knock Castra 
Regis into matches. Where it will go after that, no 
one can tell. If there be any metal by which it can 
travel, such will not only point the road, but be the 
road itself. If anything of that sort should happen. 

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The Breaking of the Storm 303 

it may — probably will — wreck the whole neighbour- 
hood ! ” 

“ Would it be dangerous to be out in the open air 
when such a thing is taking place ? ” she asked. 

“ No, little girl. It would be the safest possible 
place — so long as one was not in the line of the 
electric current.” 

“ Then, do let us go outside. I don’t want to 
run into any foolish danger — or, far more, to ask you 
to do so. But surely if the open is safest, that is the 
place to be. We can easily keep out of electric 
currents — if we know where they are. By the way, 
I suppose these are carried and marked by wires, 
or by something which can attract ? If so, we can 
look for such. I had my electric torch that you 
gave me recharged the day I was in Wolverhampton 
with Sir Nathaniel.” 

“ I have my torch too, all fit,” interposed Adam. 

Without another word, she put on again the cloak 
she had thrown off, and a small, tight-fitting cap. 
Adam too put on his cap, and, after looking that his 
revolver was all right, gave her his hand, and they 
left the house together. When they had come to 
the door, which lay quite open, Adam said : 

“ I think the best thing we can do will be to go 
round all the places which are mixed up in this affair.” 

“ All right, dear, I am ready. But, if you don’t 
mind, we might go first to Mercy. I am anxious 
about grandfather, and we might see that — as yet, 
at all events— nothing has happened there.” 

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304 The Lair of the White Worm 

“ Good idea. Let us go at once, Mimi.” 

So they went on the high-hung road along the 
top of the Brow. The wind here was of great force, 
and made a strange booming noise as it swept high 
overhead; though not the sound of cracking and 
tearing as it passed through woods of high slender 
trees which grew on either side of the road. Mimi 
could hardly keep her feet. She was not afraid ; 
but the force to which she was opposed gave her a 
good excuse to hold on to her husband extra tight. 

At Mercy there was no one up. At least, all the 
lights were out. But to Mimi, accustomed to the 
nightly routine of the house, there were manifest 
signs that all was well, except in the little room on 
the first floor, where the blinds were down. Mimi 
could not bear to look at that, to think of it. Adam 
understood her pain. He bent over and kissed 
her, and then took her hand and held it hard. And 
thus they passed on together, returning to the high 
road towards Castra Regis. They had now got 
ready their electric torches, depressing the lens of 
each towards the ground so that henceforth on 
their journey two little circles of bright light ran 
ahead of them, and, moving from side to side as 
they went, kept the ground in front of them and 
at either side well disclosed. 

At the gate of Castra Regis they were, if possible, 
extra careful. When drawing near, Adam had asked 
his wife several questions as to what signs, if any, 
had been left of Lady Arabella’s presence in the 

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The Breaking of the Storm 305 

tower. So she told him, bat with greater detail, 
of the wire from the Kelvin sounder, which, taking 
its origin from the spot whence the kite flew, 
marked the way through the wicket, down the 
stairs and along the avenue. 

Adam drew his breath at this, and said in a low, 
earnest whisper : 

“ I don’t want to frighten you, Mimi, dear, but 
wherever that wire is there is danger.” 

“ Danger ! How ? ” 

“ That is the track where the lightning will go ; 
any moment, even now whilst we are speaking and 
searching, a fearful force may be loosed upon us. 
You run on, dear ; you know the way down to where 
the avenue joins the highroad. Keep your torch 
moving, and if you see any sign of the wire keep 
away from it, for God’s sake. I shall join you at 
the gateway.” 

She said in a low voice : 

“ Are you going to find or to follow that wire 
alone 1 ” 

“ Yes, dear. One is sufficient for that work. I 
shall not lose a moment till I am with you.” 

“ Adam, when I came with you into the open, 
when we both feared what might happen, my main 
wish was that we should be together when the end 
came. You wouldn’t deny me that right, would 
you, dear ? ” 

“ No, dear, not that or any right. Thank 
God that my wife has such a wish. Gome ; we 


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306 The Lair of the White Worm 

will go together. We are in the hands of God. If 
He wishes, we shall be together at the end, whenever 
or wherever that may be. Kiss me, dear — even if 
it be for the last time. Give me your hand. Now, 
I am ready.” 

And so, hand in hand, they went to find the new 
danger together. They picked up the trail of the 
wire on the steps of the entrance and followed it 
down the avenue, taking especial care not to touch 
it with their feet. It was easy enough to follow, 
for the wire, if not bright, was self-coloured, and 
showed at once when the roving lights of the electric 
torches exposed it. They followed it out of the 
gateway and into the avenue of Diana’s Grove. 
Here a new gravity clouded over Adam’s face, 
though Mimi saw no cause for fresh concern. This 
waB easily enough explained. Adam knew of the 
explosive works in progress regarding the well-hole, 
but the matter had been studiously kept from his 
wife. As they came near the house, Adam sent 
back his wife to the road, ostensibly to watch the 
course of the wire, telling her that there might be 
a branch wire leading to somewhere else. She was 
to search the undergrowth which the wire went 
through, and, if she found it, was to warn him by 
the Australian native “ Coo-ee ! ” which had been 
arranged between them as the means of signalling. 
When Mimi had disappeared in the avenue, Adam 
examined the wire inch by inch, taking special note 
of where it disappeared under the iron door at the 

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The Breaking of the Storm 307 

back of the house. When he was satisfied that he 
was quite alone, he went round to the front of the 
house and gently shoved the hall door, thinking 
that perhaps it was unlocked and unbolted, after 
the usual custom. It yielded, so he stole into the 
hall, keeping his torch playing the light all over 
the floor, both to avoid danger and to try to pick 
the wire up again. When he came to the iron door 
he saw the glint of the wire as it passed under it. 
He traced it into the room with the well-hole, 
taking care to move as noiselessly as possible. 
He saw Lady Arabella sleeping on the sofa close to 
the hole into which the continuation of the wire 
disappeared. As he did so he heard a whispered 
“ H-ss-h ! ” at the door, and, looking up, saw Mimi, 
who signalled him to come out. He joined her, 
and together they passed into the avenue. 

Mimi whispered to him : 

“ Would it not be possible to give someone here 
warning ? They are in danger.” 

He put his lips close to her ear and whispered his 
reply : 

“ We could, but it would not be safe. Lady 
Arabella has brought the wire here herself for some 
purpose of her own. If she were to suspect that 
we knew or guessed her reason, she would take 
other steps which might be still more dangerous. 
It is not our doing, any of it. We had better not 

Mimi, who had spoken from duty, far from any 

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308 The Lair of the White Worm 

wish or fear of her own, was only too glad to be 
silent, and to get away, both safe. So her husband, 
taking her by the hand, led her away from the 

When they were in the wide part of the avenue, 
he whispered again : 

“ We must be careful, Mimi, what we do. We 
are surrounded with unknown dangers on every 
side, and we may, in trying to do good in some way, 
do the very thing which we should most avoid.” 
Under the trees, which cracked as the puff of 
wind clashed their branches and the slender shafts 
swayed to and from the upright, he went on : 

“ We know that if the lightning comes it will 
take the course of the kite string. We also know 
that if it strikes Castra Regis it will still follow the 
wire, which we have just seen running along the 
avenue. But we don’t know to where else that wire 
may lead the danger. It may be to Mercy — or to 
Lesser Hill ; in fact, to anywhere in the neighbour- 
hood. Moreover, we do not know when the stroke 
may fall. There will be no warning, be sure of 
that. It will, or may, come when we least expect 
it. If we cut off the possibilities of the lightning 
finding its own course, we may do irreparable harm 
where we should least wish. In fact, the Doom is 
probably spoken already. We can only wait in 
what safety, or possibility of safety, we can achieve 
till the moment sounds.” 

Mimi was silent, but she stood very close to him 

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The Breaking of the Storm 309 

and held his hand tight. After a few moments 
she spoke : 

“ Then let the Doom fall when it may. We are 
ready. At least, we shall die together ! ” 

With the belief that death was hovering over 
them, as was shown in the resignation which they 
expressed to each other, it was little wonder that 
Adam and Mimi were restless and practically un- 
able to remain quiet or even in one place. They 
spent the dark hours of the night wandering along 
the top of the Brow, and waiting for — they knew 
not what. Strange to say, they both enjoyed, or 
thought they did, the tumult of Nature’s forces 
around them. Had their nervous strain been less, 
the sense of aestheticism which they shared would 
have had more scope. Even as it was, the dark 
beauties of sky and landscape appealed to them ; 
the careering of the inky-black clouds ; the glimpses 
of the wind-swept sky ; the rush and roar of the 
tempest amongst the trees ; the never-ceasing 
crackle of electricity ; the distant booming of the 
storm as it rushed over the Mercian highlands, and 
ever mingling its roar with the scream of the waves 
on the pebble beaches of the eastern sea ; the round, 
big waves breaking on the iron-bound marge of the 
ocean ; the distant lights, which grew bright as the 
storm swept past, and now and again seemed to 
melt into the driving mist — all these things claimed 
their interest and admiration, forming, as it were, a 
background of fitting grandeur and sublimity to 

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310 The Lair of the White Worm 

the great tragedy of life which was being enacted 
in their very midst. When such a thought crossed 
Mimi’s mind, it seemed to restore in an instant her 
nerve and courage. In the wild elemental warfare, 
such surface passions as fear and anger and greed 
seemed equally unworthy to the persons within their 
scope and to the occasion of their being. In those 
flying minutes, Adam and Mi mi found themselves, 
and learned — did they not know it already? — to 
value personal worthiness. 

As the dawn grew nearer, the violence of the storm 
increased. The wind raged even more tumultuously. 
The flying clouds grew denser and blacker, and 
occasionally flashes of lightning, though yet far- 
distant, cut through the oppressive gloom. The 
tentative growling of thunder changed, at instants, 
to the rolling majesty of heaven’s artillery. Then 
came a time when not seconds elapsed between the 
white flash and the thunder-burst, which ended in 
a prolonged roll which seemed to shake the whole 
structure of the world. 

But still through all the great kite, though assailed 
by all the forces of air, tugged strenuously but 
unconquered against its controlling string. 

At length, when the sky to the east began to 
quicken there seemed a lull in the storm. Adam 
and Mimi had gone the whole length of the Brow, 
and had come so far on the return towards Castra 
Regis as to be level with Diana’s Grove. The com- 
parative silence of the lull gave both Adam and his 

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The Breaking of the Storm 31 1 

wife the idea of coming again close to the house. 
In his secret heart Adam was somewhat impatient of 
the delay of the kite drawing down the lightning — 
and he was also not too well pleased at it. He had 
been so long thinking of the destruction of the Lair 
of the White Worm that the prolongation seemed 
undue and excessive — indeed, unfair. Nevertheless, 
he waited with an outward appearance of patience 
and even calm ; but his heart was all the while 
raging. He wanted to know and to feel that he had 
seen the last of the White Worm. With the coming 
of the day the storm seemed less violent, simply 
because the eyes of the onlookers came to the aid 
of their ears. The black clouds seemed less black 
because the rest of the landscape was not swathed 
in impenetrable gloom. When any of our usual 
organs of sense are for any cause temporarily useless, 
we are deprived of the help of perspective in addi- 
tion to any Special deprivation. To both Adam and 
Mimi the promise of the dawn was of both help and 
comfort. Not only was the lifting of the pall of 
blackness — even if light only came through rents in 
the wind-tom sky — hopeful, but the hope that came 
along with light brought consolation and renewing 
of spirit. Together they moved on the road to 
Diana’s Grove. Adam had taken his wife’s arm in 
that familiar way which a woman loves when she 
loves the man, and, without speaking, guided her 
down the avenue towards the house. 

The top of the hill on which Diana’s Grove was 

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312 The Lair of the White Worm 

seated had, from time immemorial, been kept free 
from trees or other obstruction which might hide 
the view. In early days this was not for any 
aesthetic reason, but simply to guard against the 
unseen approach of enemies. However, the result 
was the same ; an uninterrupted view all round was 
obtained or preserved. Now, as the young people 
stood out in the open they could see most of the 
places in which for the time they were interested. 
Higher up on the Brow and crowning it rose Castra 
Regis, massive and stem — the very moral of a grey, 
massive frowning Norman fortress. Down the hill, 
half way to the level of the plain where lay the deep 
streams and marsh-ringed pools, Mercy Farm 
nestled among protecting woods. Half hidden 
among stately forest trees, and so seeming far away. 
Lesser Hill reared its look-out tower. Adam took 
Mimi’s hand, and instinctively they moved down 
close to the house of Diana’s Grove, noticing, as they 
went, its inhospitable appearance. Never a window, 
a door, or chimney seemed to have any living force 
behind it. It was all cold and massive as a Roman 
temple, with neither prospect nor promise of welcome 
or comfort. Adam could not help recalling to his 
mind the last glimpse he had of its mistress — looking 
thinner even than usual in her white frock, drawn 
tight to her as it had been to resist the wind pressure. 
Calmly sleeping, she lay on the sofa close to the 
horrible well-hole— so close to it that it seemed as 
if the slightest shock or even shake would hurl her 

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The Breaking of the Storm 313 

Into the abyss. The idea seemed to get hold of 
him ; he could not shake it off. For a few 
moments it seemed to him as if the walls had 
faded away like mist, and that as if, in a vision 
of second sight, there was a dim adumbration of 
a phase of the future — a kind of prophecy. 
Mimi’s touch on his arm as if to BUggest mov- 
ing from the spot, recalled him to himself. To- 
gether they moved round to the back of the 
house, and stood where the wind was less fierce 
in the shelter of the iron door. 

Whilst they were standing there, there came a 
blinding flash of lightning which lit up for several 
seconds the whole area of earth and sky. It was 
only the first note of the celestial prelude, for it was 
followed in quick succession by numerous flashes, 
whilst the crash and roll of thunder seemed con- 
tinuous. Adam, appalled, drew his wife to him and 
held her close. As far as he could estimate by the 
interval between lightning and thunder-clap, the 
heart of the storm was still some distance off, and 
so he felt no present concern for their safety. Still, 
it was apparent that the course of the storm was 
moving swiftly in their direction. The lightning 
flashes came faster and faster and closer together ; 
the thunder-roll was almost continuous, not stopping 
for a moment — a new crash beginning before the 
old one had ceased. Adam kept looking up in the 
direction where the kite strained and struggled at 
its detaining cord, but, of course, the dawn was not 

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314 The Lair of the White Worm 

yet sufficiently advanced to permit of his seeing it 
in a glance. 

At length there came a flash so appallingly bright 
that in its glare nature seemed to be standing still. 
So long did it laBt, that there was time to distinguish 
its configuration. It seemed like a mighty tree 
inverted, pendent from the sky. The roots overhead 
were articulated. The whole oountry around within 
the angle of vision was lit up till it seemed to glow. 
Then a broad ribbon of fire seemed to drop on the 
tower of Castra Regis just as the thunder crashed. 
By the glare of the lightning he could see the tower 
shake and tremble and finally fall to pieces like a 
house of cards. The passing of the lightning left 
the sky again dark, but a blue flame fell downward 
from the tower and, with inconceivable rapidity 
running along the ground in the direction of Diana’s 
Grove, reached the dark silent house, which in the 
instant burst into flame at a hundred different 
points. At the same moment rose from the house 
a rending, crashing sound of woodwork, broken or 
thrown about, mixed with a quick yell so appalling 
that Adam, stout of heart as he undoubtedly was, 
felt his blood turned into ice. Instinctively, 
despite the danger and their consciousness of it, 
husband and wife took hands and listened, tremb- 
ling. Something was going on close to them, mysteri- 
ous, terrible, deadly. The shrieks continued, though 
less sharp in sound, as though muffled. In the midst 
of them was a terrific explosion, seemingly sounding 

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The Breaking of the Storm 315 

from deep in the earth. They looked around. The 
flames from Castra Regis and also from Diana’s 
Grove made all around almost as light as day, and 
now that the lightning had ceased to flash, their eyes, 
unblinded, were able to judge both perspective and 
detail. The heat of the burning house caused the 
iron doors either to warp and collapse or to force 
the hinges. Seemingly of their own accord, they 
flew or fell open, and exposed the interior. The 
Saltons could now look through the atrium and the 
room beyond where the well-hole yawned, a deep 
narrow circular chasm. From this the agonised 
shrieks were rising, growing even more terrible with 
each second that passed. But it was not only the 
heart-rending sound that almost paralysed poor 
Mimi with terror. What she saw was alone suffi- 
cient to fill her with evil dreams for the remainder 
of her life. The whole place looked as if a sea of 
blood had been beating against it. Each of the 
explosions from below had thrown out from the 
well-hole, as if it had been the mouth of a cannon, a 
mass of fine sand mixed with blood, and a horrible 
repulsive slime in which were great red masses of 
rent and tom flesh and fat. As the explosions kept 
on, more and more this repulsive mass was shot up, 
the great bulk of it falling back again. The mere 
amount of this mass was horrible to contemplate. 
Many of the awful fragments were of something 
which had lately been alive. They quivered anid 
trembled and writhed as though they were still in 

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316 The Lair of the White Worm 

torment, a supposition to which the unending 
scream gave a horrible credence. At moments 
some mountainous mass of flesh surged up through 
the narrow orifice as though it were forced by a 
measureless power through an opening infinitely 
smaller than itself. Some of these fragments were 
covered or partially covered with white skin as of 
a human being, and others — the largest and most 
numerous — with scaled skin as of a gigantic lizard or 
serpent. And now and again to these clung masses 
of long black hair which reminded Adam of a chest 
full of Bcalps which he had seen seized from a maraud- 
ing party of Comanche Indians. Once, in a sort of 
lull or pause, the seething contents of the hole rose 
after the manner of a bubbling spring, and Adam 
saw part of the thin form of Lady Arabella forced 
up to the top amid a mass of blood and slime and 
what looked as if it had been the entrails of a 
monster tom in shreds. Several times some 
masses of enormous bulk were forced up through 
the well-hole with inconceivable violence, and, 
suddenly expanding as they came into larger 
space, disclosed great sections of the White Worm 
which Adam and Sir Nathaniel had seen looking 
over the great trees with its enormous eyes of 
emerald-green flickering like great lamps in a 

At last the explosive power, which was not yet 
exhausted, evidently reached the main store of 
dynamite which had been lowered into the worm 

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The Breaking of the Storm 317 

hole. The result was appalling. The ground for 
far around quivered and opened in long deep 
chasms, whose edges shook and fell in, throw- 
ing up clouds of sand which fell back and hissed 
amongst the rising water. The heavily built house 
shook to its foundations. Great stones were 
thrown up as from a volcano, some of them, great 
masses of hard stone squared and grooved with 
implements wrought by human hands, breaking up 
and splitting in mid air as though riven by some 
infernal power. Trees near the house, and therefore 
presumably in some way above the hole, which sent 
up clouds of dust and steam and fine sand mingled, 
and which carried an appalling stench which 
sickened the spectators, were tom up by the roots 
and hurled into the air. By now, flames were 
bursting violently from all over the ruins, so 
dangerously that Adam caught up his wife in his 
arms and ran with her from the proximity of the 

Then almost as quickly as it had begun, 
the whole cataclysm ceased. A deep-down 
rumbling continued intermittently for some 
time. And then silence brooded over all — 
silence so complete that it seemed in itself a 
sentient thing — silence which seemed like in- 
carnate darkness, and conveyed the same idea 
to all who came within its radius. To the young 
people who had suffered the long horror of 
that awful night, it brought relief — relief from the 

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318 The Lair of the White Worm 

presence or the fear of all that was horrible — relief 
which seemed perfected when the red rays of son- 
rise shot up over the far eastern sea, bringing a 
promise of a new order of things with the coming 

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His bed saw little of Adam Salton for the remainder 
of that night. He and Mimi walked hand in hand 
in the brightening dawn round by the Brow to 
Castra Regis and on to Doom Tower. They did 
so deliberately in an attempt to think as little as 
possible of the terrible experiences of the night. 
They both tried loyally to maintain the other’s 
courage, and in helping the other to distract atten- 
tion from the recollections of horror. The morning 
was bright and cheerful, as a morning sometimes 
is after a devastating storm. The air was full 
of sunshine. The clouds, of which there were 
plenty in evidence, brought no lingering idea of 
gloom. All nature was bright and joyous, being 
in striking contrast to the scenes of wreck and 
devastation, of the effects of obliterating fire and 
lasting ruin. 

The only evidence of the once stately pile of 
Castra Regis was a shapeless huddle of shattered 
architecture dimly seen at moments as the sea- 
breeze swept aside the cloud of thin, bluish, acrid 
smoke which presently marked the site of the once 


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320 The Lair of the White Worm 

lordly castle. As for Diana’s Grove, they looked 
in vain for a sign which had a suggestion of perman- 
ence. The oak trees of the Grove were still to be 
seen — some of them — emerging from a haze of 
smoke, the great trunks tolid and erect as ever, 
but the larger branches broken and twisted and rent, 
with bark stripped and chipped, and the smaller 
branches broken and dishevelled looking from the 
constant stress and threshing of the storm. Of the 
house as such, there was, even at the little distance 
from whioh they looked, no trace. With the resolu- 
tion to which he had come — to keep from his wife 
as well as he could all sights which might cause her 
pain or horror or leave unipleas ant memories — Adam 
resolutely turned his back on the area of the devasta- 
tion and hurried on to Doom Tower. This, with the 
strength and cosiness of the place, its sense of 
welcome and the perfection of its thoughtful order- 
ing, gave Mi mi the best sense of security and peace 
which she had had since, on last evening, she had left 
its shelter. She was not only upset and shocked 
in many ways, but she was physically “ dog tired ” 
and falling asleep on her feet. Adam took her to 
her room and made her undress and get into bed, 
taking care that the room was well lighted both by 
sunshine and lamps. The only obstruction was 
from a silk curtain drawn across the window to 
keep out the glare. When she was feeling sleep 
steal over her, he sat beside her holding her hand, 
well knowing that the comfort of his presence was 

Digitized by LjOoq le 



the best restorative for her. He stayed with her 
in that way till sleep had overmastered her wearied 
body. Then he went softly away. He found Sir 
Nathaniel in the study having an early cup of tea, 
amplified to the dimensions of possible breakfast. 
After a little chat, the two agreed to go together to 
look at the ruins of Diana’s Grove and Castra Regis. 
Adam explained that he had not told his wife that 
he was going over the horrible places again, lest it 
would frighten her, whilst the rest and sleep in 
ignorance would help her and make a gap of peace- 
fulness between the horrors. Sir Nathaniel agreed 
in the wisdom of the proceeding, and the two went 
off together. 

They visited Diana’s Grove first, not only because 
it was nearer, but that it was the place where most 
description was required, and Adam felt that he could 
tell his story best on the spot. The absolute 
destruction of the place and everything in it seen 
in the broad daylight was almost inconceivable. 
To Sir Nathaniel it was as a story of horror full and 
complete. But to Adam it was, as it were, only on 
the fringes. He knew what was still to be seen 
when his friend had got over the knowledge of 
externals. As yet, Sir Nathaniel had only seen the 
outside of the house — or rather, where the outside 
of the house had been. The great horror lay within. 
However, age — and the experience of age — counts. 
Sir Nathaniel in his long and eventful life had seen 

too many terrible and horrible sights to be dismayed 


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322 The Lair of the White Worm 

at a new one, even of the kind which lay cloee before 
him, though just beyond his vision. A strange, 
almost elemental, change in the aspect had taken 
place in the time which had elapsed since the dawn. 
It would almost seem as if Nature herself had tried 
to obliterate the evil signs of what had occurred, 
and to restore something of the aesthetic significance 
of the place. True, the utter ruin and destruction 
of the house was made even more manifest in the 
searching daylight ; but the more appalling destruc- 
tion which lay beneath was not visible. The rent, 
tom, and dislocated stonework looked worse than 
before ; the upheaved foundations, the piled-up 
fragments of masonry, the fissures in the tom earth — 
all were at the worst. The Worm’s hole was still 
evident, a round fissure seemingly leading down 
into the very bowels of the earth. But all the 
horrid mass of blood and slime, of tom, evil- 
smelling flesh and the sickening remnants of violent 
death, were gone. Either some of the later ex- 
plosions had thrown up from the deep quantities of 
water which, though foul and corrupt itself, had still 
some cleansing power left, or else the writhing mass 
which stirred from far down below had helped to 
drag down and obliterate the items of horror. A 
gray dust, partly of fine sand, partly of the waste 
of the falling ruin, covered everything, and, though 
ghastly itself, helped to mask in something still 
worse. After a few minutes of watching, it became 
apparent to both men that the turmoil far below 

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Wreckage 323 

had not yet quite ceased. At short irregular 
intervals the hell-broth in the hole seemed as if 
boiling up. It rose and fell again and turned over, 
showing in fresh form much of the nauseous detail 
which had been visible earlier. The worst parts 
to see were the great masses of the flesh of the 
monstrous Worm in all its red and sickening aspect. 
Such fragments had been naturally bad enough 
before, but now they were infinitely worse. Cor- 
ruption comes with startling rapidity to beings 
whose destruction has been due wholly or in part 
to lightning. Now the whole mass seemed to have 
become all at once corrupt. But that corruption 
was not all. It seemed to have attracted every 
natural organism which was in itself obnoxious. 
The whole surface of the fragments, once alive, was 
covered with insects, worms, and vermin of all kinds. 
The sight was horrible enough, but, with the awful 
smell added, was simply unbearable. The Worm’s 
hole appeared to breathe forth death in its most 
repulsive forms. Both Adam and Sir Nathaniel, 
with one impulse, turned and ran to the top of the 
Brow, where a fresh breeze from the eastern sea was 
blowing up. 

At the top of the Brow, beneath them as they 
looked down, they saw a shining mass of white, 
which looked strangely out of place amongst such 
wreckage as they had been viewing. It appeared 
so strange that Adam suggested trying to find a way 
down so that they might see it closely. 

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324 The Lair of the White Worm 

Sir Nathaniel suddenly stopped and said : 

“ We need not go down. I know what it is. 
The explosions of last night have blown off the out- 
side of the cliffs. That which we see is the vast bed 
of china clay through which the Worm originally 
found its way down to its lair. See, there is the 
hole going right down through it. We can catch 
the glint of the water of the deep quags far down 
below. Well, her ladyship didn’t deserve such a 
funeral, or such a monument. But all’s well that 
ends well. We had better hurry home. Your wife 
may be waking by now, and is sure to be frightened 
at first. Come home as soon as you can. I shall 
see that breakfast is ready. I think we all want it.” 


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